All of commercial real estate has benefited from REITs and their often underrated accomplishments, says Tom Robinson, senior adviser with Stifel Nicolaus Weisel. He points to the initial public offering of retail REIT Kimco Realty in 1991 that was positioned to the market as a real estate operating company. Before that, there hadn't been an opportunity for REITs to be sold to the market as fully integrated real estate operating companies. "Until 1986 and the REIT tax legislative changes then, REITs had to function through independent contractors to manage and operate their properties. They really couldn't manage the business in a hands-on sense."

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