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ROCKVILLE, MD-Federal Realty Investment Trust started 2005 off on the right foot, as is evidenced by the REIT’s operating results for the first quarter . The numbers tell the story. Funds from operations increased to $39.3 million from $34.8 million in the first quarter of 2004, and same-center operating income jumped 6.3% over income reported for the same period last year, the highest such increase seen in the last three years. Additionally, leasing among the REIT’s properties came out at an average 95.1%, a rise when measured against first quarter 2004′s 93.3%.

“The significant increase in our internal growth rate this quarter reflects continued aggressive leasing of our portfolio combined with occupancy improvements both in our same-center portfolio as well as at our redevelopment properties,” Federal Realty president and CEO Donald Wood notes in the earnings report. “Continued strong internal growth and our ability to create significant additional value from our core portfolio, through our large redevelopment pipeline, and through the improving performance and potential condominium sales at Santana Row, are the foundation for Federal Realty to provide well-balanced, risk-adjusted growth in the future.”

Santana Row–the massive 42-acre mixed-use development in San Jose, CA that has pretty much recovered from a loss of residential units, retail and parking due to a fire in 2002– took the spotlight during Federal Realty’s earnings conference call Thursday. Just last month the company decided it will make a portion of its existing apartment stock available for purchase, and it also made a series of units from a new townhouse and condominium segment available for rent. Other highlights of the quarter included the $64 million acquisition of Assembly Square Mall and the neighboring retail/industrial property in Somerville, MA, a suburb of Boston.

Looking at what the current quarter may bring, Federal Realty officials hinted, but refrained from offering specifics on any potential acquisitions. “We’re very selective about what we buy right now,” company executive vice president and CFO Larry E. Finger said during the call. “It’s a tough environment to buy in but we’re out there doing the best we can.” Last year, Federal Realty announced it had joined forces with ING Clarion Partners discretionary fund Clarion Lion Properties Fund to acquire up to $350 million in grocery-anchored shopping centers over a two-year period beginning July 2004; so far, the JV has spent approximately $80 million on investments. Responding to an inquiry about the possibility of making the remaining $270 million in acquisitions by July of next year as panned, Fingers explains “it will be a challenge in the current environment, but one or two good-size deals could alleviate it.”

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