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VOL. 127 | NO. 93 | Friday, May 11, 2012

Poag, N.Y. Investor Buy The Avenue

By Sarah Baker

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The Avenue Collierville – the largest lifestyle center in the Memphis metropolitan area at Houston Levee Road and Bill Morris Parkway – has been bought by an affiliate of Memphis-based Poag Lifestyle Centers.

The Avenue Collierville will once again be named Carriage Crossing once the new Memphis and New York buyers take over.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Poag partnered with an affiliate of DRA Advisors, a New York-based registered investment adviser, on the purchase, which closed Tuesday, May 8. Terms were not disclosed.

Formerly known as The Avenue at Carriage Crossing, the 60-acre center opened in 2005, bringing the open-air shopping and dining concept to Collierville. The Avenue was developed by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties Inc. and Montgomery, Ala.-based Jim Wilson & Associates LLC. The joint venture retained ownership of the center, while Cousins managed and leased the property.

Josh Poag, president and CEO of Poag Lifestyle Centers, said immediate plans for the property are to change the center’s name back to Carriage Crossing, because “people usually know it as Carriage Crossing.”

The 712,000-square-foot-shopping center at 4674 Merchants Park Circle continually ranks year after year as one of the 10 most valuable properties from the Shelby County Assessor of Property.

“The reality is that Carriage Crossing is doing well, it’s laid out well and it’s a high-quality project,” Poag said. “Our goal is first and foremost to maintain the integrity and the quality of the center. Then, we’ll start putting our stamp on the center by bringing in new unique tenants to the market by doing additional marketing to strengthen its position within the marketplace. Whether it’s through advertising or through events, we want to really build on what Cousins has established as a strong basis for Carriage Crossing.”

Formerly Poag & McEwen, Poag Lifestyle Centers is the original developer of The Shops of Saddle Creek in Germantown in 1987. Poag’s traditional business has been ground-up development of lifestyle centers, but over the last 18 months, the firm has been chasing the acquisition of lifestyle centers across the country as a new business thread.

“Our business has diversified without the financing ability to get ground-up developments done in this environment,” Poag said, citing the company’s Highland Row project near the University of Memphis as a perfect example of one that has screeched to a halt over the last few years. “When this one popped up in our backyard, it was the perfect match for us.”

The Avenue Collierville is anchored by Macy’s, Dillard’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Barnes & Noble, and has become a centralized gathering place for the Collierville community - offering events such as regular concerts, an outdoor family movie series and charitable fundraisers.

The pedestrian-friendly shopping destination features national retailers, select local merchants and specialty restaurants.

Poag said the center is well-positioned moving forward because of “the continued growth of the Collierville area, the major developments going on in Piperton and the soon-to-be-completed Highway 385 loop, which will connect this area to I-40 within the next two years.”

In February at the Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Property Forecast Summit, Poag explained that local retail was continuing to lag, citing last year’s sales volume within the sector as reaching only $90 million.

Poag mentioned that The Avenue had recently hit the market and that his firm “expected increased transactional activity to continue in 2012.”

“Actually, when I made that announcement, it had started hitting the public wires maybe the week before, and so they hadn’t even released information,” Poag said. “It’s always been in the back of our mind as just something to keep an eye on, but really the active part of acquiring it has really only been over the last 90 days.”

DRA Advisors specializes in real estate investment management services for institutional and private investors, including pension funds, university endowments, foundations and insurance companies.

“DRA likes to invest in real estate, but they’re investors, so where we come in is we’re the operational partner,” Poag said. “With our niche being lifestyle centers, we have the expertise to manage a property, lease it up and be the day-to-day operator of the property.”

DRA Advisors in Memphis owns two office properties – Germantown Center and Mid-Memphis Tower – as well as four multifamily assets – Addison at Collierville, Bailey Creek, Madison at Schilling Farms and Preserve at Southwind.

The firm also recently announced its plans to acquire two industrial properties from Houston-based Weingarten Realty Investors as part of a larger $382.4 million portfolio sale totaling 9.6 million square feet in Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.

MORTGAGES 54 374 1,120
BUILDING PERMITS 177 767 2,425