"I've had a wonderful relationship with Herb and the Dallasstaff," Stukalin tells GlobeSt.com. "It's been a tremendousjourney. And, I'm looking forward to working with the most prolificretail group in the state." The plan is to replicate the model thatthe Retail Connection has built in the past three years since itslaunch in Dallas.

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Stukalin, who also gets a partnership stake, says he'sfinalizing an office lease for a spot in the Park Laurette Buildingalong Memorial Drive to ready the stage to start interviewingbrokers. The plan is to have six to eight veterans on board withinsix months. "My goal is to grow it responsibly," he says. "With theplatform that we're providing, we feel confident we will be able tofocus on hiring experienced personnel in the Greater Houstonmarket."

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Stukalin says "the transition should be fairly swift" as heexits the top slot of Dallas-based Weitzman's 25-employee regionaloffice. Steve Chandler, city partner for affiliate Cencor RealtyServices, will be the team's acting chief, according to MarshallMills, president and COO of the sister companies.

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"There's a lot of talent in the Houston market. We're confidentwe'll fill David's position with another extraordinary broker who'snot only a producer, but a leader," Mills says. "We enjoyed workingwith David and we wish him the best in his new endeavor."

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Stukalin's new job puts him back at the side of long-timebusiness associates and friends, who left the Weitzman camp tostart the Retail Connection. Until now, its Houston deals werebrokerage-focused, so they were easily handled from Dallas. Thefull-court press is putting a team on the ground for developmentand investment as well.

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"We certainly plan to be an investor in Houston and our primaryplatform is development," stresses Steven Lieberman, CEO of theRetail Connection. The goal has been to open a full-service officein the city, but it was made possible by "the function of Davidbecoming available," he explains, "and having the right person tobuild that operation around."

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Stukalin, with a long roster of leading industry awards, hasbuilt a coveted black book of national retailers. He activelyrepresents J.C. Penney Co., Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc., LA Fitnessplc, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Ace Hardware Corp., all of which havefootprints in Retail Connection properties.

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Lieberman's team had a weighted collection of national retailerswhen it began and has beefed up the roster to more than 125 names.Within three years, the seasoned retail team amassed more than 17million sf in leasing assignments, bought six retail operatingcompanies, built a 600,000-sf-plus investment portfolio and isdeveloping more than 1.5 million sf in four projects. The firm alsohas an office in San Antonio, but Lieberman's not saying if Austinis next. "Stay tuned," he says. "You know there's going to be anext chapter."

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