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HOUSTON-Despite continuing turbulence in the economy and its impact on retail, Weingarten Realty’s executive team said the second quarter was solid. The REIT’s continual progress includes a working pipeline of $390 million of projects and year-to-date sales totaling $106 million of non-core assets.

During its Q2 earnings call, Weingarten executives anticipated the solid performance will continue throughout the year although they acknowledged the market remains uncertain. Robert Smith, senior vice president of new development, said 35 properties are in the pipeline, adding 13 should be stabilized by the end of 2009. In addition, the REIT completed two grocery-anchored centers: the 140,000-sf Raintree Ranch Center at Loop 101 and Ray Road in Phoenix and the 489,000-sf Sharyland Towne Crossing at Shary Road and US Hwy. 83 in Mission, TX.

“To offset any future impact of the economic slowdown, we’re expanding to work with local developers,” Smith told analysts and shareholders. “This is a good way to leverage our expertise and increase shareholder value.” Although he wasn’t specific, he said the company is continuing to see opportunities with local developers.

Weingarten took in $87 million during the quarter in the sale of five properties totaling 750,000 sf. Company president and CEO Andrew M. Alexander said there are a number of merchant-build and non-core disposition assets planned for the remainder of the year.”We’re optimistic we can come in around the lower end of the merchant build and one-off guidance,” Alexander said. “But we want to do the right thing long term.” He said the REIT will do a deal if the offer seems reasonable and if not, it will continue its hold. “We want to avoid any sort of distressed sale situation,” he added.

Although retailers continue to be hurting from decreased consumer spending, Weingarten’s executive team said occupancy is holding fairly steady. The portfolio’s overall occupancy, which includes industrial, is 93.6% in comparison to 93.7% at the end of the first quarter. Retail occupancy stood at 94.2% when Q2 ended, down 0.6% in the past quarter.

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