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ORLANDO-The 32-year-old, 497,487-sf Merritt Square Mall, the dominant retail center in central and north Brevard County, is under new ownership today. Bayview Financial Trading Group of Miami paid Boston-based John Hancock Life Insurance Co. $32.75 million or $65.83 per sf for the 88%-leased property in Merritt Island, FL, about 60 miles southeast of Downtown Orlando. The main anchors are JC Penney, Sears, Burdine’s and Dillard’s.

The property was on the market for about 45 days. “The total marketing process, from the introduction of the property to the market until closing, took about four months,” Adam Feinstein, director/financial services in Cushman & Wakefield’s Miami office, tells GlobeSt.com. Mark Gilbert, senior director/financial services, co-brokered the transaction for Hancock.

The property “received significant interest from investors due to its location in a growing submarket; its proximity to Port Canaveral and tourist-driven Cocoa Beach; and the solid sales performance of its anchor and shop tenants,” Feinstein says.

Gilbert adds that “the market for regional malls nationally has picked up considerably in 2002,” with “renewed interest from the investment community.” He says regional malls in Florida “are always highly coveted because of the state’s strong population growth and income levels.” Gilbert and Feinstein have completed $350 million of investment transactions in the past 24 months.

Merritt Square Mall was built in 1970. The Sears wing was added in 1988. Sears, Burdines and Dillard’s own their locations and were not part of the sale. Burdine’s added a second floor and fully renovated its quarters in 1999, the same year John Hancock gave the property a complete interior and exterior facelift.

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