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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

DAVENPORT, FL-Posner Park, a 630,000-sf power center at the southeast corner of Interstate 4 and US 27, appears to be defying the logic of an economic downturn. While other retail centers are struggling with sales and occupancy lately, this one has topped 90% leasing with all anchors in place and plenty of smaller spaces for specialty shops and services.

The so-called “power center” marks the first phase of a $500-million mixed-use development on the site of the former Baseball City complex, which featured a spring-training stadium and theme park. The Kansas City Royals used to hit home runs and go through workouts there before relocating their spring site six years ago to Surprise, AZ.

Miami Beach real estate mogul Victor Posner acquired the 368-acre site in 2003 with plans to develop homes, hotels and shopping space at the prime I-4 location between Orlando’s theme parks and the Gulf of Mexico beaches. Posner Park now attracts a fair amount of tourists, along with a captive audience of residences within a 15-mile radius that would otherwise have to drive to Lakeland, Lake Wales or Orlando for big-league shopping.

Anchors at Posner Park include Target, JCPenney, Belk, Best Buy, Books-A-Million, PetSmart, Staples and Michaels. Dick’s Sporting Goods was the latest to open in mid-August, with Ross set to open next spring, according to Jorge Rodriguez, retail associate with CB Richard Ellis in Orlando who handles leasing at the center.

“We’re still missing some categories that we would want to see there,” Rodriguez tells GlobeSt.com. On his “wish list” for tenants to fill out remaining spaces are a beauty salon, specialty clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and custom framing, along with professional services and fast-casual restaurants.

“So far, we’ve been successful securing tenants that still carry regional name recognition,” Rodriguez says. He adds that name-brand visibility along I-4 has helped attract small and large tenants to the site.

Sales at Posner Park have exceeded merchants’ expectations, Rodriguez says, even as some stores opened their doors for the first time this past summer, within the midst of housing market doldrums and high gas prices that might have otherwise choked off consumer spending. Several retailers have closed or filed bankruptcy, leading to dismal retailing forecasts for the remainder of this year.

Having a captive audience at a major interchange with virtually no competition for many miles around helps centers like Posner Park, according to retail experts. They say customers prefer stores with easy access to their homes and aren’t too overwhelming in size.

“Sometimes customers just want to get to the store, find what they want and get on their way quickly,” Gary Ralston, president of Maitland-based Florida Retail Development LLC, observed during the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual Florida Conference in Kissimmee last month. Freestanding stores and smaller formats offer a more convenient shopping experience, he said.

What works with local shoppers may also apply to visitors, many of whom already frequent the restaurants and convenience stores at the interchange and are increasingly making their way into Posner Park’s parking lots. “I hear a lot of different accents and languages when I’m there,” notes Rodriguez, who is originally from El Salvador.

There are also a few customers who like to stop in at Posner Park because of what used to be there over the last several decades, from the old Circus World theme park to Boardwalk & Baseball and the stadium where the Royals and other Major League Baseball teams spent every day in March. “There is a sentimental value to that,” Rodriguez says.

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