Dave Holeman, CEO of Whitestone REIT (NYSE: WSR), participated in a video interview at Nareit’s REITworld: 2022 Annual Conference held in San Francisco on Nov. 15-17.
Whitestone’s occupancy reached an all-time high in the third quarter. Holeman noted that the company is “very pleased with our occupancy level…we know that consistent execution is vital to producing strong results, and that’s exactly where our focus has been.”
Holeman added that an emphasis on designing centers with the right tenants is also instrumental in helping growth in rental rates.
Turning to governance issues, Holeman commented that this is an area where a company “shows what it’s all about.”
During the past year, Whitestone has focused on governance as an area “that needed improvement,” Holeman said. Changes implemented include: a separation of the roles of chairman and CEO; a termination of the REIT’s shareholder ‘poison pill’ plan; providing shareholders with additional rights to vote on byelaws; a strengthened board and increased diversity; a reduction and further alignment of executive compensation with shareholder interests; and, progress in prioritizing and implementing ESG efforts.
Meanwhile, Holeman said the REIT has strong organic growth opportunities embedded in its properties and has several development and redevelopment projects underway. Those projects include tactical developments such as façade and tenant remixing, as well as larger opportunities to add retail and multifamily to existing centers.
Over the next five years, the company expects to invest over $150 million in these projects, including possible joint ventures for non-retail development. Holeman added that Whitestone continues to source well-located, value-add properties. However, with bid and ask spreads very wide at this point and volumes low, it will take time to get price discovery, he noted.