July 24, 2017 | Daily Business Review
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by: Carla Vianna
The primary reason Current Capital Real Estate Group was attracted to a '90s-era Pembroke Pines shopping center and its 150,000 square feet of retail was its location.
The University Marketplace plaza — a gem for investors looking to join a flurry of real estate activityin the Broward County suburb — sits on the corner of two busy thoroughfares at University Drive and Pines Boulevard.
It's been home to the Cafe Iguana Pines nightclub for nearly two decades and is nearly 100 percent occupied.
Current Capital, a boutique real estate investment firm based in Hollywood, represented New York's Bellino Equities in the $21.25 million purchase of the center this week. The Florida group secured an ownership stake in the property, said Todd Nepola, president and founder of Current Capital.
"The real reason we bought this is because we obviously love the location," he said. "The development in that area is extraordinary."
The plaza at 100 S. University Drive is west of Florida's Turnpike and Interstate 95 and about two miles east of a major mixed-use development known as City Center now under construction.
Nepola's deal extends a trend of commercial real estate investors inking big-dollar deals in Pembroke Pines. He credits the city's maturation in recent years, specifically for new development.
"People started to recognize the growth going on there," he said. "It was unrecognizable a few years ago."
Nepola said he'll buy another property if he finds one.
Two of the largest commercial real estate deals in South Florida this year took place in Pembroke Pines, a suburb with the second-highest population in Broward.
The county's largest retail real estate transaction in almost a year closed in February: Two adjacent shopping centers, known as the Westfork Plaza and Paraiso Parc, were acquired by an Illinois-based real estate investment trust for $163 million. The centers were in the midst of a 53,000-square-foot expansion project, most of which has been pre-leased.
A 700-unit apartment complex, then known as the The Montage at City Center, traded in a $159 million deal a few months later. Another rental community, the Town at Pembroke Pines, was purchased for $87 million by a real estate group based in Boston.
Miami developer David Martin was drawn to the city by its growing population and mature residential market.
His Terra Group is transforming 47 acres into the mixed-use City Center complex to include nearly 400 apartments, hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space and a hospitality component.
His development is one of the main drivers for investor appetite in the area, in Nepola's eyes.
The first phase of Terra's project includes 200,000 square feet of retail, including a Seasons 52 wine bar and grill and Publix Super Market.
The second part of the three-phase development set to start at the end of the year will add 100,000 square feet of retail and 380 apartments, Martin said.
"What's interesting about Pembroke Pines is you're able to cater to a lot of different demographics," he said. "We want to have a diverse and broad spectrum of demand. Pembroke Pines has a millennial crowd, a young family crowd and it also has an older family crowd."
Both the Miami and Tampa regions gained more renters in suburban neighborhoods than in urban areas during the five-year period, the study shows. Data for Broward was not available.
Martin noted the city is also home to a growing base of large corporate tenants. His project will meet a surge in demand from both residents and employees for nearby retail and entertainment offerings in an urban-like center with a suburban setting.
The municipality itself is adding more fuel to the fire. Pembroke Pines is building a $60 million civic center featuring a performing arts center and conference hall, an outdoor plaza, art gallery and new City Hall near Martin's complex.