Realtor Bonnie Strickland, a key player in the St. Petersburg luxury residential real estate world for years, is now turning her focus to commercial real estate, with a special eye toward high-end retail.
While she sold some commercial properties before, it was often for her residential clients, such as helping someone sell their law firm after she helped them sell their beach house, Strickland said.
Now, she wants to help fill what she said is a gap in St. Petersburg’s appeal to wealthy newcomers: expensive places to shop.
“I’ve been going downtown now that I’ve had my shot ... I don’t care if the woman is 20 or 80, she’s carrying a Gucci or Prada or Louis Vuitton (purse),” Strickland said. “You can see the money is clearly here.”
Strickland founded the Strickland Property Group in 2010, and it rose to be one of the top luxury firms in Pinellas County. In early 2019, she sold it to New York-based Douglas Elliman, one of the nation’s largest real estate brokerages. She resigned a little more than a year later, and spent the summer of 2020 in Colorado, she said, taking some time off.
But she recently announced she’s joined Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT’s downtown St. Pete office. She has a non-compete clause in her contract with Douglas Elliman that bars her from practicing residential real estate, anyway, she said, but is excited about the new direction regardless.
One particular area where she’s hoping she could help bring high-end retail: the corridor along 22nd Street S, from 1st to 6th avenues, within the bounds of the Warehouse Arts District, which is the subject of a re-zoning proposal that would allow for more retail and residential properties in that stretch of industrial land.
Strickland said she hasn’t yet met with Miami developer Joe Furst, who is spearheading that plan and was a key player in redeveloping that city’s trendy Wynwood neighborhood. But if not there, Sundial would also be at the top of her list.
She’s interested in exploring ideas for the tax revenue generated by the stores to go toward affordable housing, Strickland added.
“It would be a big moneymaker for our city. Why should Tampa or Sarasota make all the money off high-end retail?” she said. “Let us share in the wealth and help feed the poor.”
The pandemic has shaken up the commercial real estate world, with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over retail and office space, while the demand for warehouses and Tampa Bay’s apartment buildings is booming.
But Strickland said high-end retail is different from the big box stores that have struggled.
“What I’m talking about bringing here would draw people who want to shop and do museums and lunch and dine,” she said, “and they will pay (for) that.”