A commercial real estate investment firm from coastal Virginia has opened a downtown Charleston office as it seeks to purchase more shopping centers in the Southeast.

Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust Inc. said the new location will oversee leasing and management for 10 of its existing retail properties and help identify potential future acquisitions in the Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.

Several staffers have moved from the firm's headquarters in Virginia Beach to open the office at King and Market streets, the company said Tuesday.

"The Southeast region is an area that we know very well and one that we feel will provide potential future growth for the company," CEO Jon S. Wheeler said in a written statement. "This expansion allows us to build on the already excellent property management and leasing services currently provided to our tenants that are located in the Southeast while continuing to seek acquisitions that fit the existing portfolio criteria."

In late 2013, Wheeler Real Estate paid $15.8 million for five supermarket-anchored shopping centers in South Carolina, including one in Dorchester County.

The deal included the 59,279-square-foot St. George Plaza, which publicly traded Wheeler purchased from a privately held affiliated business for $3.6 million, or about $61 a square foot.

The 32-year-old St. George property on West Jim Bilton Boulevard has Food Lion subsidiary Reid's Groceries as its main calling card. Other tenants include Family Dollar.

The other centers that Wheeler Real Estate acquired in that deal were in Clover, Lancaster, Little River and West Columbia.

The publicly traded investment firm now owns about 25 properties in eight states.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.