Wu Properties buys two shopping centers amid hot leasing market
Ashita acquires $40M retail portfolio
In Friendswood, near Houston, it totals 175,000 square feet on 33 acres
Sammy Virani put down cash this week to acquire a long-desired retail portfolio in Friendswood, near Houston.
Virani, chairman of League City-based Ashita Investments, bought a retail assemblage in the Baybrook Mall area for $40 million from Alpine Income Property Trust, the Houston Business Journal reported. The property comprises more than 175,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on a 33-acre lot along Interstate 45.
Virani tried to acquire the portfolio in 2021, but Alpine scooped it up, he told the outlet. When it became available again, Virani paid a $1.2 million nonrefundable deposit in cash and closed the transaction within three weeks, he told the outlet.
Tenants include Olive Garden, Ethan Allen, Rooms To Go, Visionworks, Longhorn Steakhouse and Charles Schwab. He also has the right of first refusal to purchase the Lowe’s Home Improvement property at 19225 Gulf Freeway.
Virani plans to continue operating the site as usual, saying 300 jobs could be added. He also wants to ensure tenants stay by offering them long-term leases, and he proposed the idea of hiring a temporary management company if any of the retailers shut down.
“If the Olive Garden shut down after five years of the lease, we’ll just go ahead and find a management company who runs a restaurant,” Virani told the outlet. “They take it over (and) keep the same people over there and run it.”
The deal goes against the norm of retail REITs selling, which typically sell to institutional investors, such as banks, pension funds or insurance companies, according to Taki Dallis of Partners Real Estate. REITs seldomly sell to individuals because they want to ensure they can close deals without incident, and individual buyers are more likely to have limited capital.
For Virani’s Ashita Investments, equity doesn’t seem to be a problem. The firm owned 148 properties totaling 3.65 million rentable square feet in 34 states by the end of last year.
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