PORT RICHEY — A Miami company specializing in apartment complexes has acquired two vacant department stores at Gulf View Square mall on U.S. 19.
B & Z of Port Richey, a company newly formed by the principals of Dorvidor Management Co. of Miami, bought the former Macy's and JCPenney stores for a combined $3.55 million. The stores and parking lots on the west side of the mall total 18.54 acres.
Spencer Bertram of Dorvidor said the company was not ready to reveal its plans.
"I believe that we will be in a position to publicize our plan for the purchased parcels in about 30 days,'' he said via email.
The company purchased the vacant store from Macy's for $1.75 million in January and paid $1.8 million to the mall owners for the former JCPenney store, according to a deed recorded Feb. 19. The JCPenney store closed in 2014 and Macy's in the spring of 2015.
The acquisitions sparked speculation that a portion of the mall could be redeveloped as a walkable lifestyle center, combining residential and commercial uses. That is the vision Pasco County suggested to prior mall owners as part of the Harbors redevelopment plan for west Pasco.
"If you look, that's what they (new owners) do. They're not trying to keep it as a mall, I don't know how you do that with the retail climate today,'' said Greg Armstrong of Coldwell Banker F.I. Grey & Son Residential, Inc. "Personally, I don't like it, but as a real estate broker that's what's happening. All of retail shopping is struggling astronomically, but I am glad it's being redeveloped and not boarded up. That was my fear.''
Dorvidor is familiar with west Pasco and the Tampa Bay region. The company purchased Park Place Port Richey in 2013. The 420-unit apartment complex near Embassy Boulevard and U.S. 19 is within walking distance of the mall. The company's holdings also include apartment complexes in Brandon and Largo.
The strategy in Brandon may give a hint to its plans in Port Richey. In Brandon, the company built a new 72-unit complex in 2015 next to its existing property which "significantly reduced marginal operating expenses through shared operations between the two properties,'' according to the company's web site.
The Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. developed Gulf View Square mall at 9409 U.S. 19, opening its doors in 1980 as the center of retail commerce in west Pasco. It has been sold three times since, most recently in February 2017 to Namdar Realty Group of Long Island, N.Y., which purchased it for $15 million. Namdar retains ownership of most of the remainder of the mall.
The mall's Web site, shopgulfviewsquare.com, directs visitors to its Facebook page "for the most recent information.'' But the Facebook page hasn't been updated since Feb. 20, 2017. In August, mall management took to social media to discount rumors the mall would close after Christmas.
"I understand it is an ongoing problem regarding issues of the mall closing, please disregard any and all rumors,''' said an Aug. 9 tweet from "mall management.''
Gulf View Square's remaining anchors are Dillard's and Sears, both of which own their own stores in the mall.
The interest from apartment builders is indicative of the Tampa Bay region's hot market for multifamily housing. Real Data of Charlotte, N.C., an apartment market research firm, reported in November that the region absorbed more than 5,800 multifamily units over the prior year, outpacing new construction and leaving a vacancy rate of just 4.1 percent. Average monthly rents were reported at $1,154.
"No matter how many we build,'' said Armstrong, "They fill them up.''
Reach C.T. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2