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John's Pass landlord hires firm to help fill empty storefronts

MADEIRA BEACH — The dominant landlord at John's Pass Village has hired outside management to help restock its 2-year-old, $17 million expansion project with tenants and waterfront activities.

"We've struggled since losing the gambling boat last year, then the economy deteriorated," said Patricia Hubbard, vice president of Hubbard Properties. Her mother, Lorraine, retains controlling interest in the far-flung Hubbard tourist services empire that is shared among seven siblings.

The family hired the Tampa office of Grubb & Ellis, a real estate investment services firm, to handle leasing and property management services of the three-story Caribbean plantation-style building they borrowed deeply to open two years ago.

Anchored by the area's first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, the project changed the rustic gateway of the rickety seaside tourist district that has 20 landlords spread over seven blocks and more than 100 stores.

It also created a second level of boardwalk shops hovering over the north side of the pass.

While Gump draws big crowds, four smaller stores went dark and two more close next weekend after the peak winter tourist season.

Hubbard pointed to two sources of difficulty:

• The retail expansion hides a 325-space parking garage that gets far fewer long-term, paying customers since the SunCruz gaming boat pulled out in 2008.

• The family needed more expertise maintaining the sophisticated mechanical and building systems that are exposed to a harsh salt air environment.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

John's Pass landlord hires firm to help fill empty storefronts 03/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 9:48pm]
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