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Winter Garden Village a win for Tampa Bay's Juan Romero, Sembler Co.

Winter Garden Village, a mall-sized open-air shopping center west of Walt Disney World, paid off for two prominent players in the Tampa Bay retail real estate world.

Tampa retail architect Juan Romero and St. Petersburg developer Sembler Co. each had a hand in the 1.1 million-square-foot center that Chain Store Age named "open air center of the year" and Southeast Construction magazine named best retail project.

While these types of centers usually become vast parking fields stuck between a line of big-box stores and a clump of small shops and restaurants, the Winter Garden project was designed to be more walkable.

"The parking is more integrated within the layout, and we created a sense of intimacy by using more than 20 pieces of public art, a band shell, gardens, different store facades, and carried out an historic theme in signs of the orange groves that used to be there," said Romero, a veteran local retail architect and chief executive of API(+) in Tampa.

Meanwhile, Sembler sold majority interest in the year-old project for $180 million to Cole Real Estate Investors. Sembler continues to manage the place for the Phoenix real estate investment trust. But, like virtually all Florida retail developers, Sembler this summer has under construction only a handful of less risky drugstores and grocery-anchored shopping centers. Sembler also trimmed its development staff and beefed up its fee-based property management effort with the hiring of Seth Layton. He was Florida point man for Kimco Realty Corp., one of the nation's biggest neighborhood shopping center landlords.

"We're keeping our powder dry," said Greg Sembler, chief executive officer of the firm that claims about 7 million square feet of projects — the equivalent space of six Tyrone Square Malls — in its long-range development pipeline.

• • •

It may seem as if everybody loads up on gear trumpeting their favorite teams, but all sports are dwarfed by sales of products sold under license from Walt Disney Co.

Indeed, Disney vendors sold $30 billion in licensed products in 2008, according to License! Global.

Compare that with all the big pro sports — NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball — selling a combined $11.5 billion in 2008. Throw in $4.3^billion from all college sports paraphernalia, and Disney licensees bolstered by the likes of Miley Cyrus, High School Musical and the Jonas Brothers still outsold all sports combined, 2-1.

"Disney's goal is $50 billion within five years," said Steven Ekstract, publisher of the trade publication.

Much of licensed product growth comes from Hollywood studios trying to play catchup with Disney, something more evident this summer when more Hasbro toy lines are made into movies.

Live action films Transformers II and G.I. Joe debut in theaters and toy departments. Hasbro recently signed script development movie deals for its Battleship, Monopoly and Ouiji board games plus elastic-armed superhero Stretch Armstrong.

Don't laugh yet. Disney made a huge action film franchise from a theme park ride called Pirates of the Caribbean.

• • •

Wal-Mart has cut in half store shelf space committed to bottled water made by beverage giants Coca-Cola Co. (Dasani) and PepsiCo. Inc. (Aquafina). In their place will be a growing selection of less expensive Wal-Mart store brand water, reports Bill Pecoriello of Consumer Edge Research.

Wal-Mart, which sells about one-eighth of all Aquafina and Dasani volume, isn't talking. But Pecoriello says a benefactor will be Cott Corp. The private-label soda maker headquartered in Tampa has been reeling as its exclusive deal as soft-drink bottler for Wal-Mart's Sam's Choice is phased out over three years.

Cott, which relies on Wal-Mart for more than a third of its business, is beefing up its lines of energy drinks, juices and bottled waters as Americans' thirst for carbonated beverages slips.

Consumers get a break, too. A 24-bottle case of Sam's Choice water was $3.68 on Monday, $1.20 below Aquafina or Dasani.

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

Disney outsells all sports

2008 sales of licensed product brands

1. Walt Disney Co., $30 billion

2. Iconix (OP, Danskin, Joe Boxer, London Fog, others), $6.5 billion

3. Warner Bros., $6 billion

4. Marvel Entertainment, $5.7 billion

5. Nickelodeon and Viacom, $5.5 billion

6. Major League Baseball, $5.1 billion

7. Phillips-Van Huesen, $5 billion

8. Sanrio (Hello Kitty), $5 billion

9. Collegiate Licensing Co, (more than 250 colleges), $4.3 billion

10. Cherokee Group, $4 billion

11. General Motors, $3.4 billion

12. National Football League, $3.4 billion

13. Mattel, $3 billion

14. National Basketball Association, $3 billion

Source: License! Global

Winter Garden Village a win for Tampa Bay's Juan Romero, Sembler Co. 04/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 8:35pm]
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