The first quarter of 2015 was a strong start to the new year, with some exciting developments making the news. Here are some of our biggest new stories from the past quarter.

Barclays’ analysts chose Kimco as a top retail REIT pick for investors, mainly due to our shopping center exposure and the success of our disposition program. USA Today also took notice of us, and included Kimco in its list of 11 companies that are growing “like a weed” and that posted revenue gains last year.

Other key moves in late Q4 resulted in some positive press in 2015. Seeking Alpha noted that 2014 ended strong due to our notable portfolio shifts, and we are well prepped for the coming months as the property market gets hotter and our TSR+ strategy continues to perform well. Our rent per square foot has increased 18 percent over the past four years and occupancy has increased 3.3 percentage points. Investor’s Business Daily noticed that retail is looking strong for 2015, and recommended Kimco as a buy for investors, citing our occupancy, which was at approximately 96 percent in our U.S. portfolio.

What’s causing these high occupancy rates? Junior anchors, specialty grocers, and international retailers are gobbling up big-box space in open-air centers. Shopping center owners, Kimco included, are happy to re-tenant and redevelop space to accommodate this rapidly-growing constituency. Medical clinics are also relocating to smaller footprints in shopping centers. This is a boon to owners, according to Dave Henry, as “clinics often pay higher rents, have better credit, and tend to sign longer-term leases.”

But the biggest news of the first quarter was the bittersweet announcement that CEO David Henry will retire on January 1, 2016. President and Chief Operating Officer Conor Flynn will be stepping into the role next year.

Redevelopment remains a priority

Kimco’s redevelopment activity moved at a brisk pace this past quarter. In particular, two of our Staten Island properties saw a flurry of construction activity. We embarked on a $10 million façade upgrade at the Forest Avenue Shopping Center, which is gaining a 34,000-square-foot LA Fitness as an anchor tenant. Our Hylan Plaza will be redeveloped into The Boulevard, a multi-level retail center that will house 60 retailers, including a supermarket, restaurants, entertainment venues, and big box stores.

On Long Island, local residents are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first Stew Leonard’s grocery store in the area, at our Airport Plaza in Farmingdale. Moving down the East Coast, just outside Philadelphia, Suburban Square is finalizing plans for a new parking garage and a Trader Joe’s expansion, plus the addition of a new retail strip. In Arlington, plans are being developed to transform Pentagon Centre from strictly retail into a multifamily, retail, and office complex.

In Florida, work to reconfigure our Renaissance Centre, which will add space for a new Whole Foods and Sports Authority, has begun. Other new tenants will include Ulta, Carter’s, and Anthony’s Pizza. And, Kimco is investing $32 million at our Tri-City Plaza to modernize some outdated sections of the property while adding some attractive new retail tenants.

Portfolio progress

Our property portfolio further evolved in the first quarter with some select acquisitions and dispositions. RioCan Investment Trust acquired the remaining 50 percent interest in two joint venture properties in Canada: Brentwood Village and Grand Park. In turn, Kimco will acquire the remaining 80 percent stake in the RioCan joint venture property Montgomery Plaza, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

As part of our simplification efforts, Kimco purchased the remaining 66.7 percent stake in the Kimstone portfolio from our joint venture partner, a subsidiary of The Blackstone Group. Kimco also purchased the 165,000-square-foot Copperfield Village Shopping Center in Houston.

In February, Kimco sold six properties including Atlanta’s Southeast Plaza for $14 million, and a shopping center in Florida's Broward County for $23 million.

Being green to earn the green

Kimco’s Nate Mitten, Ph.D., Senior Manager in Property Standards & Improvements, spoke with FacilitiesNet for a multi-part series, offering advice on how owners and landlords can reduce their energy expenses through new technologies. Senior Director of Strategic Operations Will Teichman spoke with on implementing sustainability measures through tenant engagement as part of NAREIT’s Leader in the Light Working Forum. To accomplish these measures, Kimco is working to incorporate green provisions into its leases with tenants.

Notably, Kimco was named an honorable mention finalist in the CSR Awards for the Annual Report category, where we joined other illustrious companies like iHeartMedia, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., and Medtronic Inc. Not a bad recognition for our first-ever annual corporate responsibility report.

All in all, these articles show that Kimco is still committed to our TSR+ strategy, whether it’s through portfolio acquisitions, corporate responsibility, or our tactical redevelopment program. Check back in July for all of our exciting developments from the second quarter.