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INDEPENDENCE, MO-America First Apartment Investors Inc., an Omaha-based REIT, has signed an agreement to purchase Cornerstone Apartments for $37.5 million or $89,286 per unit. The acquisition of the 420-unit complex in this Kansas City suburb is expected to close by Dec. 29.

Once complete, the purchase will mark America First’s entry into Kansas City. “We’ve felt for a long time that Kansas City is a market with fairly good growth potential,” Jack Cassidy, chief executive of America First, tells GlobeSt.com.

America First, which owns 33 apartment buildings and one commercial property, concentrates on the Southeast and Midwest regions of the US. Cassidy says the company likes the growth in the Southeast, and the cap rates in the Midwest, which he says are often about 200 basis points higher than they are for comparable assets in big cities on the coasts.

The company also prefers to add newer, well-located properties to its portfolio. Built in 2004, Cornerstone Apartments is close to upper-middle-class, single-family homes, class A commercial developments, schools, and churches, as well as the Independence Mall, a large regional center with more than 1.1 million sf. “It’s also an area that has seen a lot of new development and a lot of new job growth,” Cassidy says. S new 90-acre medical campus is scheduled to open in June 27 in the area.

America First’s other recent acquisitions include the Arbors of Dublin, a 288-unit complex at 2979 Green Arbor Lane in Dublin, OH; and The Greenhouse, a 126-unit midrise at 900 Farnam St. in Downtown Omaha. Cassidy says the small, but growing, REIT expects to continue to expand its asset base by a “fair amount” in 2007.

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