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PHOENIX-Houston-based Whitestone REIT is expanding its investment focus in Greater Phoenix, making plans to acquire 200,000 sf to 300,000 sf of office and retail properties in two to three years. The firm has hired 15-year veteran, Louis S. Privitera, as senior leasing agent for the stepped-up focus.

“We’re targeting the Phoenix area because we believe the opportunities there are outstanding,” says Richard A. Vaughn, the REIT’s vice president. “The market is starting to come up with some properties that fit our value-add business model and our strong balance sheet is giving us flexibility to take advantage of markets as they rebound.”

As of now, Privitera is Whitestone’s main “man on the ground.” Prior to joining Whitestone, he was regional vice president of Across America Real Estate Development in Scottsdale.

“Louis has been deeply involved in commercial real estate for the past 15 years,” Vaughn notes. “He’s well-respected, well-known and is very motivated and aggressive, which is exactly what we need in that area.” Privitera will continue working out of Scottsdale. Vaughn says as the company’s holdings increase, the local staff will do so as well.

Whitestone REIT acquired its first property in the metro in October 2007. The 50,000-sf Pima Norte at 36600 N. Pima Rd. in Carefree is tailored to medical tenants and other professional services, according to Vaughn.

In the meantime, the REIT’s team is looking for value-add properties that are either under-managed or under-leased, preferably around 70% occupied. Vaughn tells GlobeSt.com that several assets are in due diligence phases.

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