April 16, 2018
By Ashley Gurbal Kritzer via Tampa Bay Business Journal
For all of the doom and gloom surrounding brick-and-mortar retail, Woodlands Square in Oldsmar had never suffered too badly.
The 315,000-square-foot shopping center did struggle with some vacancy in the years following the Great Recession, but its owner, Palm Beach Gardens-based Ram Realty Advisors, was pleased with the property.
“I would say that this property recovered pretty nicely even prior to redevelopment,” said Jonathan Porter, Ram’s vice president of asset management and finance.
Still, with the center’s size and position off Tampa Road, Ram felt it could be doing even better. In late 2016, the group kicked off a massive redevelopment effort that brought in new anchor tenants and restaurants and renovated existing portions of the center. A two-way ingress and egress, at the Tampa Road light, was also added to improve access.
What made the redevelopment doable was a lineup of retailers that are in growth mode, even in an era of declining sales and shuttering storefronts. Specialty grocer Earth Fare’s commitment to the center was pivotal for the redevelopment, Porter said; Ulta Beauty drives foot traffic with an in-store salon and aisles of makeup to swatch and sample. Teen discount chain Five Below, where items are all $5 or less, has also succeeded in reeling in shoppers.
Restaurants were a big component of the redevelopment. The proprietors of Craft Street Kitchen, which is already in the center, opened Shaker n Peel, a new concept in the center. Green Market Café, Ruby Tuesday and Eve’s Family Restaurant also remain in the center.
Market timing was also a factor; Ram was comfortable with the spread between the cost of the redevelopment and the returns it could earn on rental rates, Porter said.
That spread, along with the fact that the property is held in a closed-end fund, means that Ram will likely consider selling the property in the months ahead.
“I would like to say we will be owning this thing five years from now because I think the best days are ahead of it,” he said.
Ram didn’t disclose the overall investment in the redevelopment, but renovating the center’s movie theater, AMC 20, represents $7 million alone — costs that the landlord and tenant shared.
“When you have tenants willing to put up their own capital and renovate, you know you’re doing something right,” Porter said.
Ulta, Porter said, isn’t just a win in terms of driving shoppers to the center. Building the new, stand-alone store in the middle of the parking lot — an expansive area that “looked like multiple football fields” — helped bring the center together visually. “It really connected the two sides and made it feel more like one center,” he said.