AUSTIN-In a move to build more of a local presence, Chase Merritt has opened locally, with plans to invest $500 million in Texas within the next year. The next asset targeted is the 430,000-sf Four Corners, a value-add office project in Houston’s Galleria submarket, which is scheduled for a Q1 2008 closing.

According to Chase Merritt regional VP Max Moss, a presence in Texas made sense, especially given all the activity Chase Merritt generated in the marketplace during the past year and a half. “It was best we had a local office here, so we could get things done quicker and more efficiently,” comments Moss, who joined Chase Merritt from CB Richard Ellis Co.’s Austin office. Moss says he’s charged with getting deals done efficiently and managing local relationships.

The Texas operation currently consists of Moss, who works from space at the Arboretum Plaza at 9442 N. Capital Texas Highway. Moss tells that he plans to hire an asset manager as quickly as possible, then see where things go from there as to future personnel additions.

Part of Chase Merritt’s plans include an expansion of its typical existing product type, which is mainly office. “We’ll start to include industrial, flex and multifamily in our investments,” Moss says, adding that he doesn’t anticipate having any trouble getting the word out that the company is actively looking. “Chase Merritt has been doing deals for close to two years, and all the dealmakers in Texas know them extremely well,” Moss comments.

As of now, Moss is focused on the Four Corners deal in Houston, but declined to discuss other potential deals in the pipeline. He did note, however, that Chase Merritt is looking at projects in Dallas and, of course, Austin, as well as Houston.

Nor does Moss overrule the possibility of future expansion for Chase Merritt, though says that there are no plans, at the present, to do so. “We want to provide excellent service to tenants and customers and third-party groups. As long as I can do that in Austin, I’ll do it,” he says. “But if we need to expand to continue providing that service, then we’ll do it.”

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