ATLANTA-Locally based Wood Partners LLC is expanding its business plan beyond multifamily development to acquire rental apartment projects around the country. The move is in response to what it terms as growing market opportunities.

The company is assigning top staffers to a special team that will work toward acquisitions, cultivate equity partners and seek out strategic properties that are either completed or partially built. The move is expected to help strengthen its strategic position by balancing its revenue platform and building its portfolio through acquisition and development.

“We are in a capital-constrained market on the development front, both from an equity and debt perspective, and expect that to be the case through 2010,” says Jerry Durkin, CEO of Wood Partners. “Instead of letting our top development talent sit on the sidelines, we’re putting them at the forefront of acquiring new assets, which is where equity wants to be in this market.”

Wood Partners, a leading multifamily developer on a national scale, will remain active in that arena and has secured equity for four new projects scheduled to start in the fourth quarter. It now seeks debt capital for those developments, located in Atlanta, Boston, Denver and Oakland, CA.

“There are some areas of the country that are still showing strong demand combined with limited supply and we are selectively pursuing development deals in those areas,” Durkin says. “But overall, the money has migrated toward acquisition opportunities. When that market gets too competitive, the demand will become sufficient to spawn new development. When the capital returns, we’ll be ready.”

Wood Partners’ new acquisition team will be led by current company directors Charles Barrus, Jay Jacobson and Patrick Trask. Jacobson is the most familiar with acquisitions, having held prior senior positions with Archstone Communities Trust and Archon Group, the real estate management division of Goldman Sachs.

Wood Partners currently owns 15,000 multifamily units at various stages of completion across the US. The company takes a conservative approach to development, sticking primarily to apartment complexes with limited exposure to condominiums or land loans.

Also in the coming year, Wood Partners will enter the property management business to handle operation and maintenance of its multifamily projects in situations and locations where it makes sense. Mike Hefley, former chief operating officer of Gables Residential, will lead the company’s asset management group and its entry into property management starting next year.

“Our goal is to create value for our equity investors by maximizing property-level ROI,” Durkin says. “But whatever we decide to do will be gradual.”

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