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TUSTIN, CA-Pan Pacific Retail Properties of Vista, Calif. bought the 210,936-sf, grocery-anchored Larwin Square Shopping Center for $28.5 million from Larwin Square LLC of Tustin.

Broker Reza Etedali of Sperry Van Ness, who represented both the buyer and the seller, tells GlobeSt.com the center attracted 20 prospective buyers, a number that he says is not unusual in today’s investment climate.

“The interest level on retail properties in Southern California is very high these days,” Etedali tells GlobeSt.com. He says private partnerships and institutional investors alike are eager to find solid retail investments, especially grocery-anchored centers. Larwin Square was on the market for less than two months before going under contract, Etedali tells GlobeSt.com. He says it attracted offers from about a dozen private investors, ranging from high net worth individuals to partnerships and investment groups, plus about eight institutional investors, both REITs and pension funds.

Etedali cites a number of reasons for heightened investor interest in retail centers. He tells GlobeSt.com that investors see grocery-anchored centers, in particular, as a safe bet because the centers provide essential goods and services that consumers need in good times and bad, like groceries, dry-cleaning services, medicines.Next, he says, many private groups are looking for properties in 1031 exchanges.

Third, Etedali says, investors who feared several years ago that shopping centers might suffer from online competition have changed their minds.

Yet another boost for retail and other real estate investments, Etedali says, is that the Enron and Worldcom debacles have caused concerned investors to look for safer alternatives.

Larwin Center, at the intersection of Newport Avenue, First Street and Centennial Way, is 95% leased to national and regional tenants including Vons supermarket, Rite-Aid drugs, Kragen Auto Parts, Starbucks, Jo-Ann Fabric, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Kinko’s, Burger King and Togo’s.

Etedali describes the purchase as a “buy and hold” for the buyer, who can realize immediate cash flow, plus upside through gradual rent increases over time.

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