Stephen LaMastra is a managing principal
of Monarch Investments LLC. In this edition of Four on Friday, we chat with him
about his firm, the current state of the retail sector in the Southeast and how
the sector should perform in the year ahead. Many thanks to Stephen for his
time.


LaMastraHS: Give us an overview of Monarch
Investments.

LaMastra: Monarch Investments Group is an
Atlanta-based commercial real estate investment firm engaged in the acquisition
and management of retail properties. Monarch focuses on retail centers in
markets throughout the southeastern United States and especially on unique
opportunities, turnaround situations or value-add properties. 

Monarch
is in the process of expanding its current portfolio of properties to more than
$150 million over the next two years. Monarch seeks properties valued between
$4 and $20 million, and portfolios of larger size, from coast to coast. 

HS: What kinds of retail properties are
performing well in the Southeast and what kinds continue to struggle?
 

LaMastra: While retail is clearly on the
mend, and progress should be steady over the next few years, most of the recent
improvements in occupancy and rental rates have been limited to the
highest-quality assets, in particular top-tier grocery-anchored centers and
uniquely positioned community and regional centers. There continues to be a disconnect
between bid and ask in the other classes of retail properties, both in terms of
purchase and sale and leasing efforts. We expect that to continue through 2013
and into next year.

HS: Do you believe the next 12 months will
bring dramatic improvement to the retail sector, modest improvement or no
improvement?

LaMastra: Yes, there will be continued and
steady progress over the next 12 months, and we also expect the band of
improvement – in terms of asset class and retail category – to widen beyond its
current narrow focus.

HS: Commercial real estate can be a
demanding business: What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
 

LaMastra: Primarily time with family and
friends, cycling and sports, and a fair amount of travel, both for business and
pleasure.