Steven Henenfeld

MIAMI—When retailers don’t resign leases, shopping centers can be left scrambling to backfill vacancies. Even with a healthy South Florida retail market, it can be painful to lose a lease.

That’s just what happened at Palm Beach’s Shoppes at City Centre in North Palm Beach when it lost Winn-Dixie. When the grocery anchore didn’t re-sign at the renovated 110,000-square-foot shopping center, its leasing agent, CREC, started hunting for just the right lessee to fill the vacant retail box space with a marquee brand that would strengthen the tenant mix. The result: Doris Italian Market & Bakery is leasing 22,300 square feet at the retail center.

CREC co-director of leasing Steven Henenfeld, along with leasing associate Ariel Bernstein, represented the shopping center’s ownership. This will become Doris Italian Market’s sixth store in South Florida. Shoppes at City Centre is centrally located in the southwest quadrant of PGA Boulevard and US 1. As its name suggests, the City Centre office complex is next to Shoppes at City Centre.

“The new Doris Italian Market & Bakery at the Shoppes at City Centre will be the chain’s largest location and serve as a daily traffic generator for the entire center,” says Henenfeld. “Since Doris signed as an anchor supermarket, we have already started to see an increase in leasing velocity and upswing in rental rates.”

Doris is taking over one of the center’s anchor retail spaces, which Winn-Dixie supermarket once occupied. When Winn-Dixie closed the store during the economic downturn the big box space was split.

Part of the space is now occupied by a 25,000-square-foot West Marine flagship store. Doris is taking down the other 22,300 square feet. The brand also has locations in Pembroke Pines, Sunrise, Boca Raton, Hollywood and Coral Springs.

CREC began exclusively representing the shopping complex, which is also home to a Carrabba’s Italian Grill, over a year ago. In this span, the CREC team has secured the Zoo Fitness, Allstate Insurance and Vagabond Boutique.

Palm Beach County’s retail vacancy rate will close 2014 at 6.4%, which reflects a 30-basis point reduction for the year, according to Marcus & Millichap‘s most recent market report. This year, the firm predicts local asking rents will rise 2% to $18.60 per square foot. In 2013, the average ticked up 1.2%.