Hines opens shop in Utah

The Houston-based real estate investment firm is positioning itself to take advantage of demand for office space once $2bn of retail and residential construction is completed in 2011.

Real estate investment firm and developer Hines has opened an office in Salt Lake City, Utah, with an eye towards opportunities from 2011.

“We thought that having a local presence would help us to capitalise on opportunities as they arise during the economic recovery so we though getting someone on the ground now to make the appropriate contacts and understand the real estate landscape during an economic downturn was a wise decision,” said Dustin Harris, who was transferred from California to head Hines’ new operation.

Salt Lake City, Utah

The opportunity in Salt Lake City is being driven primarily by plans for more than $2 billion of construction for the downtown district. The development, being funded by the LDS Church, includes a large retail mall and residential high-rises, but little in the way off office space, Hines’ area of focus.

Hines plans to capitalise on growing demand stemming from the development’s completion, slated for 2011.

Harris said there was only one major office property under construction at present, which is a roughly 420,000-square-foot office tower backed by real estate investment firm Hamilton Partners. Leasing for the building has been slow but it is positioned well for two years from now when the area is more vibrant, he added.

In the meantime, Hines is eying fee development opportunities stemming from upcoming government projects. Salt Lake City’s mayor has secured substantial capital from the US government’s $787 billion stimulus package, including roughly $31.5 million for transit assistance, $26.5 million for highways, roads and bridges and $1.5 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Securing fee development projects will allow Hines to staff up and be more prepared to take advantage of opportunities when the economy begins to recover, said Harris.

Harris joins Hines’ property management team in Salt Lake City, which oversees existing investments including The Kearns Building on downtown’s Main Street and the four-building Cottonwood Corporate Center in the city’s Cottonwood suburb.