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ORLANDO-Lenders, vendors and suppliers get their first look at the books of the Mercado Mediterranean Village today when a creditors meeting opens on the ninth floor of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Downtown Orlando.

Atlanta-based Griffin Expressway II LP, operating as MVO Management and headed by Christian Wolffer, has filed for protection from creditors under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The petition alleges lenders are foreclosing on the 20-year-old, 160,000-sf property after Griffin fell behind on mortgage payments. However, business at the 20% vacant Mercado continues as usual under the Chapter 11 debtor-in-possession status.

The 50-tenant center, one of International Drive’s earliest retail stars when it opened just north of the four-million-sf Orange County Convention Center, is running into growing competition as retailers compete fiercely for tourist and local customers.

The five-year-old, 500,000-sf Pointe Orlando entertainment/retail center, two miles south of Mercado, is a major competitor.

Still, Mercado has been able to hold on to a strong tenant base with competitive rents of $40 per sf for new space and about $20 per sf to $30 per sf for existing space, brokers working the International Drive submarket tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

Orlando-based Hard Rock Café plans to open a rock memorabilia museum in quarters formerly held by Guinness World Record Experience which has relocated.

Nightclub operator Robert Fischetti, plans to open the 18,000-sf Vangarde Room by year end. Fischetti is executive vice president, Transcontinental Records Inc., the Orlando-based firm that jettisoned the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync to international stardom.

Mercado principals couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But area retail brokers familiar with the center, tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the property is being allowed to operate without interruption while it drafts a reorganization plan for the court’s approval. That could take another six months to complete.

“With the healthy tenant roll it now has, Mercado could pay off its debts if given enough time and the general economy begins improving,” a broker who has participated in similar workouts tells GlobeSt.com.

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