Equity One Inc. came to the Philadelphia ICSC Deal Making conference in September, shopping for properties. The Florida-based firm is interested in snagging a portfolio of grocery- or pharmaceutical-anchored centers and/or power centers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“It would speed up the process of establishing ourselves up here,” said Cindy Morse, executive vice president of asset management for Equity One Realty & Management NE Inc., in Boston.

Equity One is not alone in seeking to expand in the built-up Mid-Atlantic. New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc. is also in the market for a portfolio there. Cindy Chu, vice president of acquisitions and dispositions, was shopping for centers in what she describes as “a highly competitive” market.

Chu said she's bumping up against increasing competition from foreign investors (German and Australian firms are among those on the hunt) and private investors. She said 1031 exchanges are popular.

For Equity One, the search will include opening satellite offices in Philadelphia and Baltimore.