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HOUSTON-Whitestone REIT is gearing up to freshen up eleven retail assets in its portfolio. The local company, which inherited the centers when it split from Hartman Management LP late last year, will prepare to spend $37 million to upgrade the vintage properties during the next 15 to 18 months.

“These properties are worn out and tired. They’re open-air centers that deteriorated because of time and need freshening up,” says Dick Vaughan, Whitestone’s VP of marketing and investor relations. He says that the assets, which are scattered throughout Houston, are in well-located, high-traffic areas with decent demographics.

The first asset to be upgraded will be the 42,924-sf Westchase Plaza, situated on 4.7 acres at 3700 S. Gessner Rd. Vaughan tells GlobeSt.com that approximately $1 million will go into the center, which will include exterior renovation and construction of an additional 5,000 sf of office space.

Three other assets will also begin undergoing renovation in late 2007. They are the 49,359-sf Sunridge Plaza at 9810 Indiana Ave., the 119,621-sf Lion’s Square at 10780 Bellaire Blvd. and the 79,730-sf Belnott Square at 13200 Bellaire Blvd. Vaughan says renovations on the remaining properties will begin in 2008. Innovative Engineering Design of Houston is handling the design aspects of the renovation.

Vaughan tells GlobeSt.com that the 11-property portfolio’s occupancy is 78%, with the goal being an increase to 90% occupancy once renovations are complete. “The plan is to hang on to these for the time being after the renovation,” Vaughan adds. “We see these as increasing both in intrinsic value and cash flow, and should attract stable, long-term tenants.” Whitestone is looking at potential value-add acquisitions outside Texas as well, he says.

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