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Tampa's Centro Ybor complex for sale

TAMPA — Centro Ybor, a restaurant, retail and office complex in Ybor City, is for sale.

Colliers International Tampa Bay, a commercial real estate firm, said Thursday it began marketing the center for the owner, M&J Wilkow Ltd. of Chicago.

"They want to take advantage of the good market timing,'' said Michael Milano, a managing director for Colliers. "The property has improved and there is strong demand.''

CMJ Centro Ybor, an affiliate of Wilkow, bought the 216,315-square-foot center along Seventh Avenue in 2006 with plans to add more office space to the mix of restaurants, entertainment venues and shops. The center is more than 90 percent occupied and includes a 20-screen Muvico movie theater.

The owner has not set a price, and prospective buyers have four weeks to submit offers, Milano said. Wilkow has no deadline for selling but hopes to close the sale by the end of the year.

If sold, Centro Ybor would be the latest major entertainment and retail complex to change ownership in the area. Bill Edwards bought St. Petersburg's nearly vacant Baywalk last year. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is negotiating to buy Tampa's troubled Channelside Bay Plaza.

In April, Wilkow bid $4 million to buy Channelside, but the offer was rejected. Milano said Wilkow's decision to sell Centro Ybor was unrelated to the Channelside bid.

Milano handled the sale of BayWalk to Edwards, a mortgage executive and music producer who has vowed to revive the 74,500-square-foot complex. The property listed for $8 million but ultimately sold for $5.2 million, a fraction of the original investment, which included $20 million from city taxpayers.

Milano expects a much better price for Centro Ybor.

"They are really quite different,'' Milano said. "BayWalk was under lender ownership and struggling, whereas Centro Ybor is under private ownership and very successful.''

The signature project of former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, Centro Ybor opened in 2000 as the spark for Ybor's revitalization. But it was slow to take off and, in 2004, the city was forced to take over the developer's payments on a $9 million federal loan, which grew to more than $16 million with interest.

The loan costs the city $500,000 a year and lasts through 2018, said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa's administrator of economic opportunity. The terms of Wilkow's purchase in 2006 say if Centro Ybor is sold for a profit, the city will receive some of the proceeds to apply toward the loan.

McDonaugh said the sale came about because Wilkow's financial partner is liquidating its properties, and the partners will likely want a higher price than they paid — reportedly about $14 million. It is also possible, McDonaugh said, Wilkow could keep the property under new arrangements.

The timing could be right to sell, said Jim Michalak, president of Plaza Advisors, a commercial real estate firm, who handled Centro Ybor's sale in 2006. Low lending rates have investors searching for commercial property, especially centers with grocery anchors or high vacancy rates.

"This is a unique asset. There's not a whole lot like it,'' he said. "I'd say there's a lot of demand, and there's limited supply. But this doesn't fall in the supply category that's the most attractive.''

Muvico, the Improv comedy club and Game Time take up half of Centro Ybor. The rest is split among office (19 percent), restaurants (18 percent) and retail (5 percent). Eight percent is vacant.

ChappellRoberts, an advertising and marketing firm, has been in Ybor City for seven years and moved to Centro Ybor in 2010. Its president, Colleen Chappell, praised Wilkow's ownership of the property but was not concerned about the sale. She has another five years on her lease and has no plans to leave.

"Our employees love working here in Ybor City,'' she said. "Any business that has the opportunity to bring a work force here will quickly realize that Ybor sells itself.''

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

Tampa's Centro Ybor complex for sale 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 11:27pm]
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