CHICAGO-Although General Growth Properties, Inc. is taking a look at one group of properties, the second-largest US retail REIT also is focusing on the $471 million in redevelopment projects under way. The $1.5 billion in acquisitions closed or announced during the first quarter eclipses General Growth Properties’ market value in 1993, and is about 8% of the value of the REIT today.

Chief executive officer John Bucksbaum revealed in the REIT’s recent earnings conference call that his company has its eyes on the 25 Mervyn’s stores located at General Growth Properties malls. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. has its Marshall Field’s and Mervyn’s chains on the market. “We think it’s very good and valuable real estate,” Bucksbaum said. “If we get an opportunity to get space back and land back at centers we own, we’re always interested.”

Bucksbaum said his company was not necessarily the top bidder during its first acquisitions of 2004, which so far have included the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas. “You never know what’s going on through the minds of sellers,” said Bucksbaum, although he suggested ability to close a sale is a factor. “You can have a great price, but if it doesn’t close, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.”

Meanwhile, General Growth Properties continues to believe returns can be as great or better in redeveloping its malls. Projects at 14 properties include a 180,000-sf renovation at Alderwood Mall in Lynwood, WA and addition of a Bass Pro Shop along with a total redevelopment of the River Falls Mall in Clarksville, IN. Both projects are estimated to cost $68 million each.

Chief operating officer Robert Michaels said most of the company’s visits to malls were to those undergoing redevelopment or expected to begin this year.

“Redevelopment continues to be one of our key drivers of our growth,” Bucksbaum said. “The most exciting areas for growth is to improve our centers.”

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