Cogdell Spencer in a buying mood

Cogdell Spencer Inc., a Charlotte real estate investment trust, is teaming with Northwestern Mutual to acquire medical office buildings and other health-care facilities nationwide.

Their joint venture, CSA Medical Partners LLC, expects to spend up to about $350 million to buy facilities associated primarily with not-for-profit health-care systems and large physician-owned clinics.

As residential and commercial development slows in the lackluster economy, more investors and developers are turning to the medical and institutional sectors.

Earlier this month, for example, five veteran real-estate industry executives formed Colony Development Partners LLC to develop, sell, lease and manage office and medical buildings and develop resorts in the Southeast.

In its announcement, Cogdell Spencer said it plans to contribute 20 percent of the equity capital while using the joint venture as its exclusive vehicle for cash acquisitions.

“This is a great opportunity for us to continue our growth strategy and serve the expanding needs of our clients,” said Frank Spencer, president and CEO.

Cogdell Spencer, which dates to 1972, is a pioneer in developing health-care facilities, setting up physician ownership groups and managing health-care properties and assets.

It merged in March with Marshall Erdman & Associates of Madison, Wis., creating a company of more than 600 employees and combined 2007 revenue of about $365 million.

The combined company has developed or built 1,500 medical office buildings, plus specialty medical facilities, health centers and surgery centers in all 48 contiguous states.

Doug Smith's Notebook

David Weekley Homes is expanding beyond its two longtime markets of Charlotte and Raleigh to build cottage and estate homes in SweetGrass, a 272-acre gated development in Blowing Rock.

The upscale community, about two hours northwest of Charlotte, is being developed by CNL Real Estate & Development of the Orlando, Fla.

“This is a great opportunity to leverage our brand and expand our operations into western North Carolina,” said David Weekley Homes-Charlotte's Tom Ingram, who is directing SweetGrass operations with onsite project manager Doug Mann.

“The fact that SweetGrass is located in Blowing Rock, a town with high name recognition in both Charlotte and Raleigh, carried considerable weight in our decision to build here,” Ingram said.

SweetGrass, which features a 22-acre lake, is on the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway just west of downtown Blowing Rock.

David Weekley Homes has four houses in various stages of construction, including a three-bedroom, three-bath cottage on the banks of Boone Fork Creek and a three-bedroom, three-bath cottage. Both are expected to be priced in the low to mid-$700,000s, including the lot.

Charlotte-based Morningstar Properties, LLC has acquired two self-storage properties in Virginia through its joint venture with Harrison Street Real Estate Capital LLC.

The acquisitions increased the portfolio to 25 self-storage facilities acquired and/or developed by Morningstar and Harrison Street since the venture was formed in 2007.

The newly acquired facilities operate as Morningstar Mini Storage in Norfolk near Old Dominion University and one in Virginia Beach near the Little Creek Amphibious Base. Together they total 170,000 rentable square feet and 1,440 units.