Palm Johnson Plaza

MIAMI—The joint venture behind the project is calling it one of the most dramatic turnaround stories playing out in South Florida’s retail landscape—and from what I’ve seen around here that’s not hype. It’s happening at Palm Johnson Plaza, a strip center in Pembroke Pines, FL.

The plaza owners have inked leases with two anchor tenants in less than a year at the formerly-distressed retail property and a capital improvement program is underway. Located at 701 Northwest 99th Avenue, the 90,000-square-foot retail center recently renewed a 31,000-square-foot lease with Winn-Dixie supermarket and finalized a new 16,401-square-foot lease with Planet Fitness.

“The rebound we’ve experienced at Palm Johnson Plaza over the past year is an example of how proactive investments in a formerly troubled asset can yield results,” says David Moret, principal of Continental Properties Acquisition Corporation (CREC). CREC is the center’s exclusive leasing agent and property management firm.

“The shopping center is now income-producing, home to a variety of new shops and eateries, and on its way to reaching full stabilization in a short period of time,” he continues. “Retail properties like these lend themselves to creating new value through in-house capabilities and market intelligence, so we see value in partnering with key clients to assume an ownership position in similar assets.”

The turnaround at Palm Johnson Plaza is a strong example of how investors are using in-house know-ho to maximize value at formerly-distressed properties in what was one of the country’s hardest-hit real estate markets during the recession. Occupancy at the center has risen by 20% over the past year, with its two marquee anchors helping to fuel additional leasing activity while stabilizing rental rates.

Palm Johnson Plaza’s ownership group, a joint venture between Miami-based private investment firm Continental Properties Acquisition Corporation and New York ppportunity fund Atalaya Capital, purchased the property’s note in March 2012. After receiving the title in the summer of 2012, they launched an aggressive repositioning program that included a series of improvements while simultaneously undertaking a strategic leasing campaign. CREC oversaw the property’s capital improvements, which included new lighting fixtures, landscaping features and parking lot upgrades.

“The transformation taking place at Palm Johnson Plaza is a result of ownership’s commitment to the property, coupled with the innovative strategies we have employed to reposition the asset,” says Ruben Suarez, senior leasing associate with CREC. “Continental Properties Acquisition Corporation’s investments are sending a signal to the market that the new ownership is committed to growing occupancy, strengthening tenant relations, and maximizing asset value. We’re seeing this materialize in the form of new retail leases and renewals.”