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After rough times, talk of optimism by Florida shopping center leaders

COMING TO YBOR: A 7-Eleven is scheduled to open Friday on Seventh Avenue, across from Centro Ybor.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times (2008)

COMING TO YBOR: A 7-Eleven is scheduled to open Friday on Seventh Avenue, across from Centro Ybor.

ORLANDO — After a long, hard climb out of the recession, Florida shopping center officials are seeing better times ahead.

The state's growing population, stronger consumer spending and tourism have helped boost demand for retail space this year, said Abigail Rosenbaum, a senior economist for CBRE, a commercial real estate company. More than anything else, consumer confidence will have the most impact on retail in the next two years.

Speaking at the 2014 International Council of Shopping Centers Florida conference Monday in Orlando, Rosenbaum said this year will be the first that rent prices have gone up since the recession. More retail centers are under construction or renovation, and vacancy rates are down. Despite challenges among retailers, some are expanding and experimenting with new concepts.

Fueling much of that growth are aging baby boomers. By 2030, the population of people ages 65 to 84 is expected to increase by 2.2 million Florida, many of them retirees from the North.

CBRE's report said baby boomers tend to spend more on education, their adult children and mortgage debt and less on entertainment and consumable items than the previous generation. And while those boomers will spend less money per person, their overall spending will go up because there will be more of them.

That's good news for retailers and shopping centers hoping to attract them.

A 7-Eleven convenience store is opening Friday in Ybor City, the latest of only a few national retailers to claim a spot in the historic district. It's taking over the long-vacant La Ultramar Jewelers building at 1535 E Seventh Ave. across from Centro Ybor.

The store will be the first in Florida to have a standup counter area where customers can people watch along Seventh while sipping a Slurpee. Corporate folks smartly figured the views at 2 a.m. will be interesting.

The chain worked closely with the neighborhood to ensure the store blended with the former cigarmaking hub now dominated by bars, restaurants and tattoo parlors. The front door was moved from along Seventh to the corner of Seventh and 15th Street, as it was decades ago, and the signage excludes the traditional loud orange, red and green stripes, said Grant Distel, a regional development director for 7-Eleven.

At 2,400 square feet, the store will be slightly smaller than most 7-Elevens and, based on its street-front location, won't have gas pumps. It will sell all the typical convenience store products — beer, cigarettes and snacks — but will also carry a large selection of prepared foods for visitors and locals living in the area.

Yet another breakfast cafe is looking to expand in the Tampa Bay area.

Headquartered in Panama City, Another Broken Egg Cafe plans to open six area locations in the next two years, including the first at 2554 N McMullen-Booth Road north of Enterprise Road in Clearwater. Others are in the works for Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater Beach.

The chain was founded in 1996 in Old Mandeville, La., in a country cottage, and has grown to about 40 restaurants in 13 states. It serves breakfast and lunch and has a full-service bar.

Another Broken Egg Cafe is the latest daytime cafe seeking to enter the local breakfast market, a niche restaurant owners say is underserved. Also coming to the area are Keke's Breakfast Cafe and Toast Cafe.

Contact Susan Thurston at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110. Follow @susan_thurston.

After rough times, talk of optimism by Florida shopping center leaders 08/25/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2014 7:14pm]

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