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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

ATLANTA-Forrest Robinson has resigned as president of the industrial division at Cousins Properties Inc. to partner with development veteran Ray Weeks in the formation of Weeks Robinson Properties. The new development and investment company, along with financier Rex Fuqua, will focus on industrial and office properties in Atlanta and other growing Sunbelt cities as far west as Texas and down into Florida, Robinson tells GlobeSt.com. The company, which is headquartered on the seventh floor of the 100 Riverwood building in Atlanta, also plans to partner with retail and residential developers in the region.

Bob Currie, senior vice president of leasing for the industrial division, is also leaving Cousins to join Weeks Robinson. With the departure of Robinson and Currie, Cousins will begin to phase out its industrial dealings. To start, the company has sold 167 acres of land at two Atlanta-area industrial parks to Weeks Robinson for approximately $18.5 million. The transactions, including a 44-acre site at King Mill Distribution Park in Henry County, south of Atlanta, and three sites totaling 123 acres at Jefferson Mill Business Park, northeast of Atlanta, are set to close through next year.

Robinson spoke with GlobeSt.com about the company’s upcoming plans for the newly acquired land. “I master-planned those sites with Cousins and will continue with that plan to develop up to 4.8 million sf of high quality distribution buildings,” he says.

The existing buildings on those sites, including 779,000 sf at King Mill that’s 52% leased and an empty 459,000 sf at Jefferson Mill, will continue to be owned by Cousins, and Robinson Weeks will handle the leasing. Both buildings are leasing at about $3 per sf depending on what the build out is, says Robinson.

Weeks Robinson will also replace Cousins on the master development team for Ft. Gillem, a 1,427-acre military base in suburban Atlanta, but Cousins will continue to have a financial participation in that redevelopment. Cousins does not have plans to replace Robinson or Currie, and any operating industrial properties will now be managed internally by its office/multifamily division.

“Combined with their departure, this land sale means Cousins is not pursuing new speculative industrial development opportunities in Atlanta, giving us more time and resources for office, retail, residential and mixed-use opportunities,” says Tom Bell, chairman and CEO of Cousins Properties. “Those have been our core businesses for decades, and we believe they can deliver the best returns for our shareholders.”

Robinson and Weeks’ collaboration comes as no surprise since the two have worked together for more than 30 years. They served as president and chairman at Weeks Corp., a company they made public as a REIT in 1994, then sold to Duke Realty in 1999. Robinson then went on to serve as president of Miami-based Codina Group before joining Cousins to start an industrial division in 2004. Since 2004, Weeks has also partnered with Cousins to develop industrial buildings in Atlanta. For the past three years, Weeks has been working as chairman of the BeltLine Partnership to advance the Beltline, an innovative urban renewal project in Atlanta.

Cousins will continue to manage its diverse portfolio, which include interests in 7.7 million sf of office, 4.8 million feet of retail, 24 residential communities under development and 9,000 acres of land tracts. The company also provides leasing and management services to third-party investors.

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