A fund managed by New York City-based GTIS Partners invested 70%of the equity capital, while San Diego-based SWVP contributed theremaining 30% of equity capital. SWVP, a privately-held real estateinvestment company will manage the day-to-day operations of thepartnership.

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Located in northern Pinal County along Hunt Highway, MerrillRanch is about 30 minutes southeast of the Gilbert/Chandler/Mesasubmarkets. The parcel is partially entitled for up to 18,000residential lots and an additional 900 acres are fully entitled forcommercial use. The commercial portion could eventually accommodatemore than 2 million square feet of retail or office, according toTom Shapiro, president of GTIS Partners.

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A group of more than 60 sub-participant banks and the FDIC, ledby the People's Bank of Winder, foreclosed on the property inFebruary 2009. Atlanta-based Bull Realty was chosen to market theproperty. During the first 60 days on the market, Bull produced 12cash offers for the property. Start to finish, Bull had generatedover 20 cash offers from buyers across North America.

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Nathan & Associates Inc., a local residential land brokeragecompany, served as an advisor to both parties on the purchase andwill continue to provide sales and marketing services to thepartnership. Jeremy McArthur with McArthur Land Company of Phoenixrepresented the buyer in the transaction.

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This is the first deal in which SWVP and GTIS Partners havejoint ventured, Shapiro tells GlobeSt. "Both of us try to findunique investment opportunities, and this is one of thosesituations."

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Shapiro says GTIS Partners has not made an investment in theU.S. in more than two years. Instead, firm has been focused onBrazil, where the residential market slumped five years ago. "Thesituation in the U.S. today is very similar to where Brazil wasfive years ago," he says.

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Shapiro says the partnership has no plans to do anything to theland in the short-term. "We have no time pressure because we boughtthis unleveraged," he explains. "We think we bought a terrificpiece of land that can be held for investment until the timing isright."

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Shapiro notes that public homebuilders are now recapitalized andactively buying finished lots. Once homebuyers run through finishedlots, they will seek out entitled land like Merrill Ranch. "Theplan is for us to sell off the land in pieces," he says. "But thereal key is for us is to wait this out and be ready for therecovery."

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In addition to the 4,500 acres, Bull Realty also sold offanother 1,182 acres of Merrill Ranch in December 2009. The landsold was $8.6 million to U1 Resources Inc., a local firm that plansto develop the land in the future.

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