Shopping Center REIT Weingarten Focusing on Dense Urban Markets

Drew Alexander, president and CEO of Weingarten Realty (NYSE:WRI), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview at REITWorld 2015: NAREIT’s Annual Convention for All Things REIT at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Alexander elaborated on the meaning behind the title of a recent investor presentation, Goodbye Kansas, Hello Hollywood.

“We think it’s an excellent tag line; it’s memorable and also accurate,” Alexander said.

He noted that in 2011, Weingarten began a multiyear transformation. Since that time, the company has sold $1.5 billion of properties and invested about $500 million.

Alexander explained that Weingarten wants to focus on its core markets comprised of dense, urban areas. “We’ve honed the geography where we are in markets where we have a strong presence with strong supermarket-anchored centers,” he said.

Alexander also discussed the impact of lower oil prices on its biggest market, Houston. He stressed that Weingarten has experienced oil shocks in the past, especially in the middle 1980’s when Houston lost around 250,000 jobs.

During the last few years, Houston’s population has grown by about 600,000, Alexander pointed out. At the same time, about 80 percent of Weingarten’s income in Houston comes from shopping centers that principally serve ‘super zips,’ or areas with high income and education levels. Furthermore, little new supply is being created, according to Alexander.

“We’re very comfortable that we’ll weather this downturn just fine,” Alexander said.

Turning to development, Alexander noted that Weingarten is currently finishing up a number of projects and is “cautiously optimistic” that further developments can be added to the pipeline. “We are happy to look at any of the markets we are in,” he said.