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HOUSTON-As part of a move toward a retail development focus, Hartman Management, LLC has hired long-time retail development and leasing expert Rom Michels as vice president of retail leasing.

Backed by three decades of experience in retail shopping center leasing and redevelopment for companies such as Grubb & Ellis, Weingarten Realty Trust, CenterAmerica Property Trust, Jerry J. Moore Investments and May Department Stores, Michels’ main responsibility will be to oversee a recently formed retail development group at Hartman. “He brings a multifaceted approach to the company, not only in terms of experience and background, but with large tenants as well,” says Valarie King, Hartman’s COO. “We’re looking for him to become a leader in helping to build and develop those relationships with large tenants.”

Michels, an independent developer of shopping centers before moving to Hartman, notes that he wanted to become more involved with tenants, which is why he accepted the position. “I was also interested in taking a strong management role with a good shopping center developer,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

Charles “Tex” Spear, a former colleague of Michels, believes he is a strong fit for the position. “Rom is energetic and he’s been in the market for quite awhile,” says Spear, senior vice president, southwest region for New Plan Excel Realty Trust, based in New York City. “He has great market savvy and a solid conceptualization and idea of what strip centers should look like and how they should perform,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

King says Michels’ strengths will be important for Hartman, which wants to focus more on development. “Acquisitions will be our mainstay,” King tells GlobeSt.com, “but development is an area we don’t want to ignore. We wanted someone on board to help develop the opportunities and that someone would be Rom.”

As part of his position, in fact, Michels is currently evaluating Hartman’s portfolio. “I know many of these tenants,” he says. “Once I figure out where the matches are, we’ll key in on anchor tenants that match our criteria. Then, we’ll do what we can to make the deal work.” Over the long term, he adds, he would like to get retail occupancy up to 96%.Though Michels’ brings a solid development background to the Hartman table, King says he’ll be helpful in the area of mentoring as well. “Our goal is to have him mentor these people so they can be a sponge for his knowledge,” she says.

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