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BRADENTON, FL-Well-maintained, highly leased neighborhood shopping centers have been the hottest item on the commercial real estate radar screen for the past two years. So it was no great surprise to area brokers when South Florida syndicators Maurice Egozi and Alan Sakowitz reaped a return of 89.5% for themselves and their investment group on a local shopping center transaction.

What was surprising, however, brokers tell GlobeSt.com, was that the Egozi-Sakowitz team accomplished the feat after holding the 37-year-old property for only 16 months.

Under the corporate names of Cortez Pointe LLC and Cortez Point 1, Egozi-Sakowitz bought the 289,110-sf, 26-acre Cortez Plaza on June 14, 2002 from OAIC Florida Partnership LP in West Palm Beach, FL for $21.2 million, or $73.16 per sf.

They brought occupancy up to 98.7% from 93.3% and sold the asset on Oct. 16 of this year to Inland Southeast Cortez LLP and Inland Southeast Visionworks of Oak Brook, IL for $26.8 million, or $92.70 per sf. The buyer assumed a mortgage of $16.8 million.

“We had earnings while we operated it and from the sale,” Sakowitz tells GlobeSt.com. The syndicators also benefited from a closing arrangement with Inland. “We received $26.55 million from Inland,” Sakowitz says. “In addition, Inland agreed to pay its own broker $250,000″ as a commission fee. “That saved us $250,000 that would normally have come from the amount received by the seller.”

Sakowitz says the center “met our criteria for purchasing great real estate with tremendous upside potential. It is on the 50-yard-line of Bradenton.” He adds, “Cortez is at main and main.”

Sakowitz, who also practices law, says he and Egozi “consistently pay our investors much higher returns” than those received by private investors in big-name REITs.

“We have to because we were competing for funds that otherwise were going into the stock market where our investors believed they could easily earn 35% per year,” Sakowitz tells GlobeSt.com. “We were forced to always find the needle in the haystack. Today, we know that easily earning 35% in stocks is not as easy as losing 35% in stocks. Likewise, we know that the needle is no longer in the haystack.”

Cortez Plaza is anchored by Burlington Coat Factory, Publix, Circuit City, PetsMart and has Kinko’s and a Bank of America drive-thru on two outparcels. The property is on the southeast corner of US 41 and Cortez Road in Manatee County. Built in 1966, the center was completely renovated in 1988.

Sakowitz and Egozi are principals in Pointe Realty Inc. in Bay Harbor Islands, FL. Jim Michalak, a senior director in the Tampa, FL office of Cushman & Wakefield of Florida Inc., negotiated for the Sakowitz-Egozi investment group. Steve Sanders, senior vice president, Inland Real Estate Acquisitions Inc., represented the Inland entities in the transaction.

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