The new owners of Gulf Coast Town Center are making more than $5 million in renovations at the popular dining and shopping spot. Managing partner Jeff Preston of North American Development Group said it’s all about commitment.
In an exclusive with The News-Press, Preston talked about the plans the new owners have for the outdoor south Lee County shopping center while sharing renderings of plans that will be done in 2018. “It’ll be easy to make this place better,” Preston said. “We’re gonna do it. That was part of the decision coming into this. Come in and make a commitment or we weren’t going to do it.”
North American has developed, acquired, redeveloped and managed more than 200 shopping centers. In buying the town center, It formed a joint venture and took on the role as local, operating partner for DK Capital, a Madison Avenue Hedge Fund Company. DK Capital bought Gulf Coast Town Center out of receivership. The transaction was completed in April. The management company is Centre Corp., headquartered in Toronto. It has regional offices in Atlanta and West Palm Beach.
The Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio and CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tennessee took out an approximate $190 million loan for Gulf Coast Town Center, which was built in phases from 2005-07. That was just before the Great Recession hit. The town center then went through a $212.7 million foreclosure -– the largest standalone foreclosure in Lee County history. Back then, the development had Preston’s attention.“Super regional location between Alico (Road) and 75,” he said. “Center of growth for Fort Myers. Growth in the north and east. For the long term, it’s where you want to be. It’s where tenants want to be and need to be.”
About 100 commercial stores and approximately 1 million square feet of business space also appealed to him. Preston wants to have a combination of retail businesses along with lifestyle, medical and office stores, one that complements anchors such as Bass Pro Shops, Costco, Regal Cinemas and Super Target.
With department stores either struggling or going out of business mall owners are trying to grasp where their future is headed. “Retail always is evolving and now it’s evolving at a more rapid pace,” Preston said. “It’s as visible as it’s ever been. Why? Amazon and the internet. “We’re very bullish on retail but it has to be the right kind of retail. Too much retail is bad. You have to strike the right balance.”
For the past few months, landscaping and painting have begun at Gulf Coast Town Center. More than 35 trees – including varieties of palm and oak – will be planted. In early 2018, renovations will start and Preston is optimistic it’ll finish in two to three months.
The focal point in the middle of the center will be made of grass and stone with the grass in a checkered green and white pattern. After looking at 100 different options, a colorful art piece will be installed. There also will be water misters coming from the top.