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HOUSTON-After searching for two years, Inland Western Retail REIT has managed to make its first acquisitions in the metro. The Oak Brook-based REIT has paid $31.6 million for Bear Creek Shopping Center and Clear Lake Shores in separate off-market transactions.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to expand in Texas, but it’s been harder to find assets in Houston,” admits Matt Tice, an acquisitions coordinator with Inland Western. “I don’t know why. We’ve been bidding on properties for the past two years, but we just didn’t have any opportunities come up.”

Inland Western acquired the 87,912-sf Bear Creek Shopping Center for $19.4 million from locally based Ainbinder Co. Tice tells GlobeSt.com that the opportunity to acquire the HEB grocery store-anchored center emerged when the REIT was negotiating with Ainbinder in the spring on the $23.3-million takeover of the 125,173-sf Grapevine Crossing in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Built in 2002, Bear Creek Shopping Center sits on 12.6 acres at 4811 Highway 6 North. It sits in a five-mile trade area with a population of 177,044 and an average annual household income of $85,839.

In a similar off-market move, Inland Western scooped up the 60,155-sf Clear Lake Shores from the locally based Property Commerce after buying one of its retail assets in the border town of McAllen. The Clear Lake deed went for $12.2 million.

The center, built in 2003-04 at the junction of Marina Drive and US Highway 146, is shadow-anchored by Target and Home Depot. The roster also is a mix of national and local tenants. Its five-mile trade area contains 76,861 residents with an average annual household income of $83,318.

“Both of these centers are well leased and well located with strong tenants,” Tice says. Bear Creek is fully leased and Clear Lake Shores is 90% occupied.

Tice stresses Inland Western is continuing to search for acquisition opportunities in the area. “We like Sugar Land and the Woodlands,” he says.

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