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CHICAGO-Popularity in properties net-leased by Deerfield-based Walgreen & Co. is keeping up with the drug company’s aggressive expansion plans. Equity Capital Management has raised $150 million from Chicago and St. Louis area investors to buy the stores, which are popping up in the US on a one-per-day rate, and have bought $45 million of pharmacy assets so far.

Besides investors from the markets that are home to ECM principals Shelby E.L. Pruett and James G. Koman, Bank of America, MONY Real Estate, Transwestern Investment Company and Wachovia Securities are among the institutions that are in as well.

“We believe the demand for net leased properties will continue to grow and be enhanced as the economy improves and national companies are better able to capitalize on their credit rating,” says Pruett, a locally based institutional investor and fund manager.

Koman, a St. Louis-based developer, has been involved in building about 20 Walgreen Drug stores, which sell for $2 million to $10 million.

“We are looking very seriously at a range of portfolio opportunities and are in discussions with a number of developers,” Pruett adds. “We have the advantage of being able to move quickly, which is attractive to owners.”

While the ECM Income & Growth Fund, LLC is closed to new investors, the firm plans to launch a similar fund targeting assets.

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