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WEBSTER, TX-The 19-acre Baybrook Gateway has been sold to New Plan Excel Realty Trust and JPMorgan Investment Management Inc. The class A, 236,854-sf center, across the road from Baybrook Mall, had attracted 100 requests for confidential agreements during its first week on the market.

Comparable retail centers in the area have sold for $295 per sf to $375 per sf. A hot market and cap rate compressions were the motivation for local owner Eastfield Realty Inc. to sell the 19-acre property at 1345 W. Bay Area Blvd., according to Stephannie Mower, executive vice president and managing director of investment services for PM Realty Group’s Dallas office.

Mower says she wasn’t surprised by the tremendous response for the 10-year-old asset. “When you have an asset on the market and across the freeway from the highest-grossing mall in the Houston area, it doesn’t take a buyer too long to figure out this is an asset to have,” she says. She adds that Baybrook Gateway’s tenants, pointing to Barnes & Noble Inc., CompUSA Inc. and Old Navy Inc., have done spectacularly well with the location.

Mower tells GlobeSt.com that offers came in quickly and the best-and-final was decided almost immediately, but escrow took somewhat longer. “The center wasn’t fully occupied when we marketed, but we wanted to sell it as a fully occupied center so those leases needed to be signed,” she explains.

Mower says that New Plan Excel Realty Trust and equity partner JP Morgan Investment Management Inc., both based in New York City, were the logical choice because of the time and manpower invested during the acquisition process. She says the new owner is getting strong upside potential and plans to keep it as a long-term hold.

While rents aren’t below market for the area, given the demand for retail in the submarket and the retailers’ success at Baybrook Gateway, New Plan can raise rents as leases roll over. “This is already known as a strong retail pull area,” Mower explains. “There’s the pull from Galveston to south of the Houston area. There’s the demographics of NASA and all kinds of new development, office and residential going on there. And here this center sits at the pinnacle corner of where all this activity is going on.”

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