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HOUSTON-Lamar Cos. of Morristown, NJ has wrapped up a local disposition of three retail properties, selling the 273,230-sf Willowchase Shopping Center to an affiliate of Norfolk, VA-based Perrine & Wheeler Real Estate Investments. The center has been on the market since May at an asking price of $17.5 million.

The buyer, Willowchase Associates LLC, bested 18 others vying for the 90%-leased property at the corner of FM 1960 and Texas 249. Lamar acquired the shopping center in 1999 along with Deerbrook Plaza and Lakewood Forest Shopping Center.

George Cushing, senior vice president here for the Northbrook, IL-based Grubb & Ellis Co., tells GlobeSt.com that Lamar bought the trio with a plan to hold for three years, add stronger management and hike occupancies … and then return the package to the market.

Cushing, who’s not discussing the selling price, says the 19.5-acre holding’s chief draw was its relatively low rental rates in comparison to the trade area. According to Cushing, the retail space in the 14-year-old Willowchase rents for about $10 per sf while neighboring centers are raking in $22 per sf. The just-sold center is positioned near the 1.5-million-sf Willowbrook Mall in a trade area that takes in the suburbs of Cypress, Spring, Tomball and Magnolia. “If you took a snapshot of the area right now,” Cushing says, “you would see a wealthy and deep consumer base.”

Cushing says the center sold without deferred maintenance or debt assumption. The new owner is planning a long-term hold, he adds. The anchor tenant roster, which has no large rollovers in the near future, consists of Fiesta Mart, PetsMart, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Tuesday Morning and Burke’s Outlet. Grubb & Ellis associate Paula Foster assisted with the sale of Willowchase, assessed at $14.5 million by the Harris County Appraisal District.

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