Hitting a Solid Single

When it comes to retail investing these days, an old baseball adage might apply best: Don’t swing for the fences when a single will get you on base. (It’s spring training time here in Florida, so the analogy seems a little more appropriate.)

In this case, single-tenant retail properties might be the smartest play among commercial real estate investments, experts say. While strip centers sit empty and larger shopping centers struggle to backfill vacancies, smaller standalone spaces appear to be weathering the recession pretty well.

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Democracy Battle Heats Up

Even though we’re more than seven months away from the November general election, it isn’t too early for opponents of Amendment 4—the initiative formerly known as Florida Hometown Democracy—to start what is likely to become a rough, expensive campaign. You might not see it amidst your favorite TV programs yet, but you can definitely look for it on your computer screen.

A group called Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy (which doesn’t really convert to a catchy acronym) has launched an online video showing how a similar initiative in St. Pete Beach wound up hurting the local economy more than helping. The vote-on-everything initiative wiped out the city’s legal budget, even though it was supposed to result in less courtroom conflict.

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Farming Making A Comeback

Remember when citrus growers and other agricultural landowners in Florida were selling their land because its value was much higher than that of the crops generated? My, how that trend has reversed.

Heller Bros., a major citrus packer based in Winter Garden, closed this month on 2,342 acres of grove land in Fort Pierce for the bargain price of $7.7 million. That’s roughly $3,300 per acre, or 7.5 cents per square foot. (That’s right, seven and a half cents! I used two calculators just to be sure I’m not wrong.)

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Getting a Second Look

Investors clamored to Florida in the middle of the last decade, rushing to buy commercial real estate with rapidly rising values. They’re back again, this time to pick up the pieces of a broken market.

Paul Bubny’s story at GlobeSt.com about Spanish developer Espais Promocions Immobiliàries pursuing US expansion mentions an eye toward distress opportunities in South Florida. Barcelona-based Espais established a beachhead in New York City in 2006 by acquiring a successful Manhattan condo project.

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Miami’s New Shopping Center

Amid all the doom-and-gloom national news coverage of the busted urban condo market in Miami, something amazing has occurred in the retail sector of its central business district. Integra Realty Resources ranks Downtown Miami’s 5% retail vacancy rate as one of the lowest in the nation.

The Miami Downtown Development Authority counts 42 net new retail businesses opening there in 2009, with a total of 152 over the past five years. New additions of goods, services and entertainment choices range from a Publix supermarket to an Irish pub on Brickell Avenue.

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Don’t Believe the Anti-Hype

We’re hearing a lot lately about how Florida might never return to the good old days of booming commercial real estate values and stabilized occupancy. The experts aren’t buying any of that.

“Florida has always been very volatile in its cycles. We’ve always gone down hard, but we’ve always come back strong,” Larry Richey, senior managing director with Cushman & Wakefield in Tampa, told me for an upcoming article in Real Estate Forum. He sees absolutely no reason why the Sunshine State can’t rebound and regain as quickly as in past downturns.

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CNL’s Olympic Connection

It isn’t just ice skaters, hockey players and even a curler that Florida has contributed to this year’s Winter Olympics. Orlando-based CNL Lifestyle Properties made more than $23 million worth of improvements to its Cypress Mountain resort in recent years and expects to reap big benefits once all the medals are awarded.

CNL Lifestyle, which bought Cypress Mountain in 2006, made capital investments including a new high-speed chair lift, new ski runs and a new three-story, 48,000-square-foot base lodge. The improvements were planned in anticipation of Vancouver hosting the Olympics.

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