The two companies had worked together on Casto's first lifestyleproject, Winter Park Village, in Winter Park, FL. Tony Martin, apartner with Casto, tells GlobeSt.com, that the experience led tohis firm's first foray into property ownership outside the US. Hesays he thinks the retail opportunities here are pretty strong,with a high barrier to entry and strong sales levels. Casto willown 50% of the company, and Commercial Centers will continue tomanage and lease the properties.

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"There's very limited land on which to build on the island,there's a rainforest and mountains, and they are environmentallysensitive. Where a process here might take a year to get zoned, itmay take seven-eight years there," Martin says.

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Tourism is not really a factor, he says, with the industry beingonly about 10% to 15% of the island's GNP. However, the mid-leveltenants, such as Sears, Marshalls and Walgreens, seem to do well,and aren't affected by the struggling US economy, Martin says."About 40% of our tenants are locally-based, so we have a good mixof national and local," he says. "Our occupancy rate is in the low90% range. Also, our partner is part of the Chainlinks network, sothey're doing a lot of tenant representation, so we hope to benefitfrom those relationships."

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The retail properties include the 456,180-sf Santa Rosa Mall inBayamon, the 243,220-sf Centro del Sur in Ponce, the 161,868-sfPlaza Caparra in Guaynabo, the 142,869-sf 65th Infanteria, the138,274-sf Villa Blanca Mall in Caguas, the 126,462-sf RepartoMetropolitano in Rio Piedras, the 71,177-sf Eastern Plaza inFajardo, the 42,078-sf Mountain View in Carolina and the 78,724-sfEl Monte Mall in Ponce. The office building is the 222,470-sf PlazaScotiabank in Hato Rey, mostly occupied by Scotiabank.

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Martin says that there is some upside opportunity with theproperties. "There's some redevelopment possible, some propertieshave age on them, and when the leases expire we'll enhance thevalue. We hope to also acquire additional properties there," hesays.

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The company already owns properties in Florida, North Carolina,Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Chicago, but Martin says there's noimmediate plans to go elsewhere outside the US. "If we hadn'talready had this partnership, we probably wouldn't have done thison our own," he says.

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