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2 Md. shopping centers get a new owner Annapolis Mall, Wheaton Plaza to REIT; Commercial real estate

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust yesterday completed its $184 million acquisition of the Annapolis Mall and Wheaton Plaza shopping centers, less than a month after completing an initial stock sale.

Westfield America Inc.'s purchase of the two Maryland shopping hubs boosts its number of retail projects to 23 in seven states and raises the square footage in its portfolio by 2.1 million square feet -- roughly equivalent to four 35-story USF&G; Towers.

"It's an excellent center in a growing market, and we believe the center has expansion potential," Westfield Co-President Richard E. Green said of Annapolis Mall, the area's third-largest shopping center.

"Wheaton Plaza is a tremendous redevelopment opportunity for Westfield," said Peter Lowy, a Westfield co-president.

"The center has strong anchors and demographics, and we plan on renovating and expanding the center to reposition it in the Montgomery County market."

At Annapolis Mall, Westfield gains a 1 million-square-foot center with 150 stores, anchored by Nordstrom, Hecht Co., J. C. Penney and Montgomery Ward. Westfield now owns the entire retail project, with its purchase of a 70 percent stake in the mall from the RREEF Funds, a San Francisco-based pension fund adviser that had controlled the mall since 1986.

The mall, which had been 30 percent controlled by Westfield predecessor CenterMark Properties Inc., debuted in 1980 and was substantially renovated three years ago, when Nordstrom opened its first Baltimore-area store there in 1994.

Westfield bought CenterMark last year for $362.5 million from a Goldman, Sachs & Co. affiliate and General Growth Properties Inc.

The REIT financed the purchase with proceeds from its initial public stock offering and a $600 million credit line from a consortium of lenders in Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

A Westfield spokesman declined to reveal specific expansion plans for Annapolis Mall, but hinted that an addition could include entertainment-oriented retail.

At Wheaton Plaza, a 1.1 million-square-foot project that Westfield bought from the Gudelsky family, the REIT intends to spend the next year analyzing a potential $100 million redevelopment, said company spokesman Randall J. Smith. That mall, on an 80-acre tract in Wheaton, contains more than 120 stores and is anchored by Hecht Co., J. C. Penney and Montgomery Ward.

Westfield also controls Montgomery Mall in Bethesda.

The Wheaton Plaza purchase comes less than three weeks after Westfield raised $270 million through an IPO that sold 23 percent of the company to the public.

The remaining interest in the REIT will remain with Westfield Holdings Ltd., an Australian real estate company with a total value of $5.4 billion.

Last year, Westfield America generated net income of $27.3 million on revenue of $156 million, according to a March filing with the U.S. Securities andchange Commission related to the stock offering.

Pub Date: 6/05/97

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