The 245,000-square-foot Las Olas Riverfront retail center, which sits half-empty in downtown Fort Lauderdale, is under contract to be sold for more than $15 million to a group that includes Canadian trader Michael Wekerle, real estate sources say.
The group also includes hotel investor Dev Notwani, according to real estate sources. The contract is set to close any day now.
Colliers International, which marketed the site last fall, would not comment for this story.
Tom Kates, president of Stiles Realty, whose company had been interested in the property, said Las Olas Riverfront has a lot of potential because of its location. Some of the existing development is also workable in the short term. He said he could not comment on the contract.
Last year, the assessed value of the property was $16 million and the value of the mortgage at foreclosure was $23 million – a far cry from the $205 million mezzanine loan owner Boca Developers defaulted on to Cerberus Capital Management.
Built in 1998 for $55 million, the center, at 300 S.W. First Ave., is located on the New River and along the Riverwalk path connecting downtown with Las Olas Boulevard. The city’s historic district, Museum of Discovery & Science and Broward Center for the Performing Arts are just to the west.
The 3.67-acre L-shaped site is approved for 1.3 million square feet of development, but could be denser due to the zoning.
The highest and best use, real estate experts agree, would be a mixed-use concept with residences, offices, retail and possibly a hotel. Boca Developers, which bought out partner Michael Swerdlow to control the site, unveiled such a plan in 2007, but never got it off the ground as the residential boom went bust.
Although a few years have passed, executing the residential portion of the concept soon could be a challenge, with South Florida communities still absorbing thousands of residential units at below replacement value, realty experts say. However, one thing Fort Lauderdale has going for it is a shallower inventory of new condominiums than Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
The property faces design challenges, in part because connections to the Riverwalk were never completed.
Info from South Florida Business Journal