Mark Cassidy

Summit Commercial Properties Inc.

Age: 38

Specialty: Retail property investment

Recent Deal: Acquisition of Centerwood Plaza in Bellflower.

As a child growing up in Houston, Mark Cassidy learned the real estate market from the bottom up.

During summers and weekends, Cassidy would tag along with his father, who appraised houses for a living. As he got older, Cassidy's father put him to work in the family home construction business.

"One of the first things I learned is that you can tell how old a house is by reading the date stamped on the toilets," he said. "My life has gotten a bit more complicated since then but real estate is real estate."

Now, as executive vice president of El Segundo-based Summit Commercial Properties Inc., Cassidy has been busy building a $300 million portfolio of grocery-store anchored retail centers. The company a unit of Highridge Partners created last July is expected to convert to a public or private real estate investment trust, possibly within the next year, he said.

Since taking the job, Cassidy has led Summit in its purchasing of 16 properties nationwide. The company has been closing about three deals each month during the past year, and currently has about five in escrow.

"We realize that the market is picking up, and that retail centers are good investments," said Cassidy, who lives in Rolling Hills with his wife and two children. "It's been fairly tortuous. I live, breathe and eat this thing."

Working on big deals is nothing new for Cassidy. Before moving to California, he worked for Houston-based Camden Property Trust.

As head of Camden's acquisition and development, Cassidy was one of the key executives to assemble its $250 million apartment REIT. It has since grown to about $650 million in value, making it one of the nation's largest residential REITs.

He hopes the same success will happen in his current position.

"In my career, I've held tape measures, counted bathrooms, inspected toilets and rehabbed houses," said Cassidy, who graduated with a real estate degree from the University of Texas.

"I've done so much of this that I have a gut feeling that makes me believe this current portfolio will work," he said.

Joe Bel Bruno

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