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ATLANTA-Branch Properties, a locally based private real estate investment company, has acquired its long-time joint venture partner, the Highlands Cos. The specific value of the multimillion-dollar transaction isn’t being disclosed by either Branch president Nick Telesca or Highlands president Chris Cassidy.

Cassidy will be a general partner and president of Branch’s residential development division, according to terms of the deal. However, Highlands will maintain its staff and offices in suburban Alpharetta.

Highlands specializes in multifamily development and construction management. The firms jointly developed the $300-million, 50-acre West Village residential and retail project in Atlanta’s Vinings submarket. Branch has also provided the equity for all of Highlands’ developments since the company’s inception eight years ago.

“Our companies fit together very well,” Branch’s Telesca says. “We have complementary skill sets with very little overlap. The acquisition makes perfect sense for both of us.” He adds, “We see an opportunity to focus on high density, vertically integrated mixed-use projects like West Village.”

The deal was done at this time largely to spur Branch back into new retail development, Telesca says in a prepared state. Branch sold off 22 retail properties valued at $400 million in November 2004.

“It’s extremely difficult to develop mixed-use properties with multiple parties, even if you have a long, successful track record with your joint venture partners,” Telesca says. “Officially bringing Highlands under the Branch umbrella allows us to develop vertically integrated mixed-use projects that combine ground-level retail with residential and office, creating livable communities with a sense of place.”

Since its founding in 1973, Branch Properties has raised and invested more than $2 billion, mostly in Southeastern retail properties. Highlands has developed more than $200 million in multifamily, retail and mixed-use properties in the Southeast.

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