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TUCSON-Grubb & Ellis Co. is returning to the city after a seven-year absence. A long-time friendship was one of the catalysts behind the new office, which officially opens this week.

Staffing the operation at 3333 Speedway will be Robert L. Davis, William L. DiVito and Howard Kong, who came from CB Richard Ellis’ Tucson office. Also on staff will be Scott Soelter and Michael Townsdin, formerly with Bourn Partners LLC of Tucson. CBRE declined to comment on the team’s departure and Bourn Partners could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Gregory Coxon, president of the western region for Santa Ana, CA-based Grubb & Ellis, says Tucson wasn’t part of the company’s near-term expansion plan. But, Davis, DiVito and Kong contacted him expressing an interest in opening a new shop so he gave it serious thought. Coxon says he started his real estate career with the original Grubb & Ellis’ Tucson office, which played a huge role in the decision to open a new one in the city.

“I’d officed in Tucson at one time and didn’t want to ignore it. With the right people in place, it made sense to have a presence there,” says Coxon, who was hired to lead the western region last year after spending many years with CBRE in Phoenix as senior managing director.

Davis says one reason why he and his colleagues contacted Coxon was because they missed him after he left CBRE and wanted to work with him again. “When Greg left CBRE, we wanted to follow him,” Davis says. “We thought a fresh approach to the market would be great and being able to help him get an office started here was appealing.”

Grubb & Ellis’ original presence in Tucson came to an end in 2001 when the corporate office was sold and became an affiliate led by Ronald C. Scholl, a principal of Westar Partners LLC and a former Grubb & Ellis broker. The office at 3434 E. Broadway Rd. closed two years later.

Davis tells GlobeSt.com that Tucson is far different now than when Scholl bought the business seven years ago. For one thing, the area’s population growth has surpassed one million. “That’s a significant milestone in a community for a lot of different reasons,” he explains. “Everyone looks at you differently when you have a million people–from retailers to manufacturers.”

Tucson’s coming of age hasn’t been lost on Coxon. While Grubb & Ellis/BRE Commercial LLC’s Phoenix operation has done an outstanding job in handling Tucson deals, Coxon points out that the cities are more than 100 miles apart and have different characteristics. “The bottom line is we need someone who is in the market, who knows the market and who has a very deep understanding and knowledge of the marketplace,” he stresses.

The Phoenix operation, an affiliate owned by BRE Commercial LLC of San Diego, will continue to handle transactions in the Phoenix metro while the new team will oversee assignments in Tucson. A Grubb & Ellis spokeswoman says the Tucson and Phoenix offices will likely refer local deals to appropriate offices as the need arises.

In terms of local expansion, Coxon says the goal is to start small, then add employees as business grows. He says the existing office has enough room for about 12 people. Over time, he’d like to see the staff grow to 15 people and possibly include a valuation and property management group.

“If we keep recruiting the level of talent we already have in place, we’ll be looking forward to a tremendous amount of business in Greater Tucson,” Coxon predicts. “We should be very competitive in the Tucson market.”

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