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SANTA MONICA, CA-The Watt Cos. has named Susan Rorison to the newly created position of president of Watt Commercial Properties as part of a plan that includes strengthening the company’s retail operations. Industry veteran Rorison, who has been with Watt since 2004, will lead a program designed to increase investment in Watt’s urban shopping centers, including “enhancements to focus on improving customer experience and strengthening retail mix,” according to a company statement.

In her new post, Rorison will lead the strategic development, leasing and management services for the company’s 60 retail, residential, office and industrial properties throughout the US. Watt’s shopping centers are located in high-density, urban areas with diverse populations, and the centers themselves consist largely of grocery stores, drug stores and other nondiscretionary retailers.

“While these types of small retail centers are often overlooked by investors in good economic times, they provide much-needed stability when overall discretionary consumer spending drops,” Rorison observes. “At a time when many real estate developers are pulling back, we are moving forward with investments that can help secure the future of these urban shopping centers by providing a desirable mix of retailers and a clean, comfortable shopping experience for our customers.”

Rorison says that she and her team have already evaluated consumer needs at the Watt centers and “pinpointed upgrades that will make a difference for local residents.” While the nation’s credit crisis disrupts real estate projects across the country, she points out, Watt Commercial Properties sees opportunities within its portfolio. She is pursuing redevelopments of existing assets and making new investments in the company’s portfolio.

Rorison brings 30 years of retail sector experience to her new position, including serving as national head of asset management for the Centro Watt shopping center REIT, where she helped direct an expansion of the REIT’s shopping center portfolio to over $11 billion in assets in 38 states. Before joining the Watt Cos. Rorison directed national asset management for Burnham Pacific Properties and was western regional vice president for Prudential Real Estate Investors, managing its regional mall portfolio.

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