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Developer to revamp CocoWalk

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Developer hopes to rejuvenate CocoWalk

Yet another buyer is banking on the fact that they can bring the luster back to CocoWalk.

PMAT Real Estate Investments, a New Orleans-based real estate development company, announced Thursday that it paid $87 million to purchase CocoWalk, once considered one of the industry's most successful entertainment centers.

But CocoWalk has struggled in recent years to regain the success it enjoyed during its heyday in the early 1990s.

This is the fourth time that the 200,000-square-foot property has changed hands since 1998.

''It's in a great location with very good demographics,'' said Bob Whelan, owner of PMAT Real Estate Investments. ``The previous two owners haven't invested any capital in the center. The property has just been capital deprived. People are less likely to come to a center that is rundown.''

Whelan's team plans to invest $5 million in the next year on a capital improvement plan that will give the project a complete face-lift, including repainting, new store fronts, a new roof, new flooring, refurbishing the garage, upgraded lighting and new landscaping.

Mia Stierheim of Collier Abood Wood-Fay has been hired as the local leasing agent to fill the 20,000 square feet of vacant space, with the goal of bringing in another national restaurant and high-end apparel shops. The leasing and capital improvements will culminate with a grand reopening anticipated to occur in April 2007.

Whelan believes that the lack of a local leasing agent was part of the problem under previous owners, who like him were also out-of-town investors.

''You cannot lease shopping centers from across the the country,'' Whelan said. ``You have to have someone who knows the market.''

Whelan's company owns predominantly strip shopping centers, including 13 in Florida. Most of his other Florida properties are in Central Florida, except for Flamingo Market Place in Pembroke Pines. CocoWalk is the company's largest acquisition.

PMAT purchased CocoWalk from Thor Equities, which paid $120 million in Aug. 2004 to buy CocoWalk and Beach Place.

Miami Herald - Fri, Sep. 01, 2006 - By Elanie Walker

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