An improved economy and housing market has spurred an upswing in the state's retail development, especially in parts of South Florida.
Miami leads the way with about 1.15 million square feet of shopping center space under construction, much of it associated with Brickell CityCentre, a billion-dollar mixed-use project with 505,000 square feet of retail.
At the bottom? The Tampa Bay area with no major projects under construction and the most available retail space of Florida's six major markets.
The information is part of the 2013 Florida Retail Report prepared by commercial real estate firm CBRE and presented during last week's International Council of Shopping Centers Florida conference in Orlando.
"Our retail people feel the worst is behind us," said Patty Nooney, senior managing director of CBRE's Tampa office, of the local market. "We will start seeing things improve. The A locations are in demand and you are going to see some of the older locations converted into medical and other uses."
Shopping centers and malls statewide had a 7.6 percent vacancy rate at the end of the second quarter, with Jacksonville having the highest percentage of empty space at 10.6 percent and Miami having the least at 4.1 percent.
The average asking rate for leasable space was $17.95 per square foot, with South Florida significantly outpacing the north. Miami had a rate of $35.04 per square foot compared with $14.94 for Tampa Bay.
"Miami is the strongest retail market in the state right now. The rest is pretty modest," Nooney said, noting most of Tampa Bay's retail growth has been redevelopment projects and single, freestanding buildings.
Of the more than 1 million square feet of vacant sublease space on the market, about 79 percent is in Tampa Bay. Most of it came when Sweetbay Supermarket closed 33 underperforming stores earlier this year, 22 of them in the Tampa Bay area. Jacksonville-based Bi-Lo Holdings bought Sweetbay in May but has not said whether it will reopen the shuttered stores or convert them to its Bi-Lo or Winn-Dixie brands.
Nooney said competition among grocery stores will continue to play a role in the area's commercial real estate market. Trader Joe's recently announced plans to open a store in South Tampa, its first in the area, and specialty grocers Sprouts Farmers Market and Earth Fare are also scouting local sites.
Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.