Birmingham, Ala.-based REIT Colonial Properties Trust said 2012 is the year it’s starting to get its development pipeline back on track. As with the other public REITs who have already reported first quarter financials, Colonial, too, saw increases in net operating income (NOI) and revenue year-over-year thanks to a thriving multifamily market. The company reported during its 2012 Q1 earnings call last week that it ended the first quarter with a same property occupancy rate of 96 percent.

ln keeping with CEO Tom Lowder’s “reduce, restructure, and renewal” business plan, Colonial announced it will be making select dispositions while cap rates remain attractive to allow it to start breaking ground and creating new supply in its core multifamily markets. The company said during the call that its target dispositions will be mainly commercial assets and select older multifamily properties.

The ultimate goal for Colonial is to get to a 90-10 portfolio, where 90 percent of holdings are multifamily and 10 percent is comprised of other asset types. But with so much capital currently in acquisition mode in the multifamily market, Colonial will spend the next two years focused on getting its development pipeline delivered while still monitoring its core markets for buying opportunities. Currently the pipeline consists of six active development projects and the company plans to spend $125 to $150 million on development in 2012.

“I think we’re going to see all of these sites activated over the next 24 months,” said Reynolds Thompson, Colonial’s president and chief financial officer. “We’re going to be very active in Orlando, Nashville, and then work our way west and activate Phoenix and Las Vegas last in the cycle.” Aside from planned developments and dispositions, the company reported a bullish outlook on the upcoming leasing season. New lease rates in 2012 have, so far, been following a pattern similar to the one the company saw in 2011.

“As we look through the first quarter, our numbers were slightly down back in January to flatten out in February, and were up a little over 1.5 percent in March. And then, as we mentioned, they were up almost 3.5 percent in April,” said Thompson. “So, the trend is definitely heading in the right direction and we feel very good about the way the leasing season is shaping up in general,” he added.

NOI increased 8.3 percent over the first quarter 2011 and 2012 and full year guidance for the same property portfolio showed 6 to 8 percent growth. Revenue was up 6 percent year-over-year and full year guidance calls for 4.75 to 5.75 percent growth.