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MEMPHIS-Time Equities Inc. has purchased Lamar Crossing, a 64,800-square-foot retail center for $6.6 million in an all-cash transaction. The seller is Lamar South LLC based in Chattanooga. A 1.7-acre parcel of land with entitlements for an additional 20,000 square feet of retail has been included in the deal. At the moment, New York-based TEI does not have plans for the site, says asset manager Dean Bodnar, but will probably look to build on it in three to five years.

The existing shopping center on the site was developed in 2007 and is currently 96% occupied. Tenants include CitiTrends, Dollar Tree, Shoe Show, Ashley Stewart, Simply Fashions, SunTrust Bank and Marty’s. Leasing rates at the property range from $10 per square foot to $16 per square foot for the larger spaces, says Ami Ziff, asset manager with TEI.

“According to our data, the Memphis market is an underserved retail market with a dense population and a strong service sector supported by a growing convention and tourism industry,” says Bodnar. “Our plan for the property is to leverage national anchors to enhance the strength of the inline tenant mix.”

TEI currently owns another 75,000 square feet in Memphis and is looking to acquire more retail properties in the Southeast based on demographics and population increases, including the continued migration trend of Northeasterners, says Bodnar. “We will continue to look for properties with an emphasis on strong infill locations,” he reports.

Vacancy rates for the Memphis retail market have been stabilizing, and were at 9.5% at the end of the third quarter, according to the latest CB Richard Ellis Marketview report. Average rental rates have risen slightly to $11.41 per square foot, the highest level in four years, reports the brokerage. Construction activity has increased from 161,907 square feet to 225,942 square feet over the last quarter despite difficult market conditions.

“The retail sector in Memphis has grown significantly in recent years as a result of a diverse economy and the expansion of big-box retailers and grocery-anchored neighborhood centers,” says Ziff. “As a major center for agriculture, medicine, telecommunications and distribution, we feel Memphis is a strong market poised for growth.”

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