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CLERMONT, FL-Bank of America’s intense bidding for a prime 1.3-acre parcel near the city in one of Central Florida’s hottest commercial development hubs illustrates the emphasis national banks are placing on opening branches in fast-developing local markets, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

The most recent example was Bank of America’s purchase of an outparcel at the East Town Center shopping center, about 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando. The land was on the market only three months.

Regency Realty Group of Jacksonville and East Town Center were the sellers. Regency had selected Trevor Hall Jr., the senior industrial broker in the Orlando office of Colliers Arnold, to market the land because Hall had worked with Regency on previous deals. Amy Young of Trammell Crow Co. and T. Andrew Hawkins, senior vice president, Bank of America represented the bank.

“This was an untypical textbook exercise where all my research and all my instincts were wrong,” Hall tells GlobeSt.com. “My best research was telling me the land would probably be best used by a convenience store or a gas station and the price would be around $1 million per acre.”

Regency’s “pro forma was in the $900,000 range,” Hall says. The broker then offered the land to “every prospect I could think of,” he says. But he struck out. “Chevron, Texaco, Seven-Eleven–they all felt the price was too high,” the broker tells GlobeSt.com.

He then received an offer of $900,000 from Bank of America which was interested in building a branch in fast-growing Clermont. “I didn’t realize at first how interested they really were,” Hall says. But then a second offer came in from another unidentified bank for $1 million, the seller’s full asking price.

“At this point, I could have taken the $1 million offer to the seller and have him make the final decision,” Hall says. “But in this typical arms-length transaction, I felt I should go back to the first bidder (Bank of America) and tell them of the higher offer without disclosing the identity of the bidder.”

Bank of America then upped its initial $900,000 offer to $1.1 million. “Now I had a crucial decision to make,” Hall says. “Accept the higher offer and close the deal or give the second bidder an opportunity to bid higher.”

Hall and his client then drafted a final contract, stipulating all of the required land-use clauses but left the price block blank. He gave a copy of the contract to both bidders, again without telling them who they were bidding against.

He told them, “You get a final chance to write in your best offer.” He gave them a Friday deadline after giving them the contract on a Tuesday.

“We felt that was the fairest and most professional way to handle this situation,” Hall tells GlobeSt.com. “This way they were competing against price alone–not against each other as a company or even as personalities.”

The bidder who had initially offered $1 million came back with a $1.31 million offer. Bank of America wrote in a bid of approximately $1.34 million to win the tract.

The price equates to about $1.03 million per acre, or $23.51 per sf, one of the highest-per-sf prices recorded for rural land in south Lake County, according to the county’s real estate recording division.

Interest among banks for choice outparcels at prime commercial and retail locations doesn’t surprise John M. Crossman, senior vice president/retail, in the Orlando office of Trammell Crow Co. “No single outparcel user is more active than national, regional and local banks,” Crossman tells GlobeSt.com. “Bank of America, AmSouth, Wachovia, SunTrust, Washington Mutual and many others have aggressive development plans.”

Crossman says Bank of America is “leading the pack with a plan to add more than 550 banking centers throughout the US over the next three years.”

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