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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 25, 2008 13 years ago

Coffee Talk

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+ Dupe the media!Rake in profits!Someone finally figured out how to make money on the stock of WCI Communities, a stock that has fallen from the $20 range into $1 territory.+ Student housingin growing demandNot all of real estate has slowed to a crawl.+ Battle heats up oversoutheast Lee CountyAn epic legal battle is looking more certain with the resignation of a well-respected development consultant from a committee formed to examine land uses in southeast Lee County.+ Hot hogs focusof shocking studyTampa's Stinger Systems Inc. had a problem. It needed to prove the cardiac safety of its key product, the Stinger S-200 electro-stun gun, but it's hard to find human volunteers willing to endure the repeated shocks, close study and eventual surgery required.+ New C12 groupin Fort MyersC12, a nationwide group of organizations for Christian chief executive officers, has added a new franchise in Fort Myers. + Flagler Westshore purchaseexpensive, development delayedCoral Gables-based Flagler Development Group appears to be waging a big bet on its new Westshore property.+ Fight to widenPine Island RoadBuilders in Cape Coral plan to redouble their efforts to widen the busy Pine Island Road corridor despite the governor's veto.+ Not your parents'flea marketYou may have thought flea markets were a thing of the past, but a newly built one in Collier County takes the concept to a whole new level.

Coffee Talk

+ Dupe the media!

Rake in profits!

Someone finally figured out how to make money on the stock of WCI Communities, a stock that has fallen from the $20 range into $1 territory.

A scammer emailed a fake news release to the Fort Myers News-Press and a local television station claiming the Bonita Springs-based company had agreed to be sold to an undisclosed buyer for $5.25 per share. The hoax was sent after the markets closed on Friday, July 15, and it was published on the Web sites of the Fort Myers News-Press and the Wink News television station.

If an investor had purchased shares on July 15 at the closing price of $1.28, he would have reaped a 20% gain if he had sold at the following Monday's closing price of $1.53. Not a bad return for weekend work.

The media outlets pulled the news from their Web sites after company officials denied any such deal.

+ Student housing

in growing demand

Not all of real estate has slowed to a crawl.

There is a record number of people in college. They need places to live. Off-campus student housing has become a more valuable segment of commercial real estate, for investors as well as managers and developers.

In fact, investors around the world are paying attention to this segment. Some have partnered with universities to get projects done.

The segment finished strong in 2007, and although it has slowed this year, there still is activity in the market, Dorothy Jackman, associate vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Tampa told Coffee Talk.

"Student housing is recession resistant, but not recession proof," Jackman says.

Besides demographics, part of this trend is driven by geography.

While Boston has many universities, it has limited open land. Compare that to other areas, such as the Southeast, and new construction of garden-style apartments is more likely there.

The products are mainly apartment buildings. And if you're well out of college, please erase the Animal House memory of where you lived.

Today's college apartments are big on amenities such as movie rooms, tanning beds, saunas, indoor basketball, golf courses and racquetball and volleyball courts.

While this segment is in demand, it does require strong local management to maintain the quality of the buildings, Jackman says.

"Students can be tough," she says. "The buildings will need a lot of managing. But you can command higher rents."

+ Battle heats up over

southeast Lee County

An epic legal battle is looking more certain with the resignation of a well-respected development consultant from a committee formed to examine land uses in southeast Lee County.

Dennis Gilkey, the former president of the Bonita Bay Group who now runs his own consulting firm, recently resigned as co-chair of a committee charged by Lee County commissioners to examine land uses on 83,000 acres in the southeast part of the county.

Already, the commissioners have imposed a temporary moratorium on any new limestone rock mines in the area at the behest of a handful of residents and environmentalists. But a recent study by a consulting firm hired by the county recommended an end to mining and additional restrictions on other uses such as agriculture and housing. That's despite scant evidence any of these uses negatively impact the county's resources such as water.

The limestone rock in Lee County is akin to an oil strike. The rock is an essential ingredient for construction and Lee County is one of the few places in the state that has it.

In a resignation letter to Commissioner Bob Janes, Gilkey wrote that the recommendations "are so far away from a feasible solution and based on such erroneous assumptions and reasoning, that it indicates to me that the recommendations were pre-determined from the start."

Of course, it would be hard for Coffee Talk to imagine any politician ordering a study without knowing what the outcome is going to be. But at least now it seems we know where Lee County commissioners stand.

+ Hot hogs focus

of shocking study

Tampa's Stinger Systems Inc. had a problem. It needed to prove the cardiac safety of its key product, the Stinger S-200 electro-stun gun, but it's hard to find human volunteers willing to endure the repeated shocks, close study and eventual surgery required.

Enter, the pigs.

Dr. Wayne McDaniel of the University of Missouri, performed a comparative analysis of the Stinger S-200, the Taser M26, and the Taser X26 on swine of different sizes.

Stinger Systems reports that after 216 zaps from the Stinger S-200 none of the animals experienced serious heart arrhythmias. A parallel study that compared the electrical output of the three stun guns found that the S-200 delivered less electrical current to the chest than the two Taser products.

+ New C12 group

in Fort Myers

C12, a nationwide group of organizations for Christian chief executive officers, has added a new franchise in Fort Myers.

The group joins existing C12 groups in Sarasota, Tampa, Ocala and Orlando. C12 members meet monthly for discussions on how to run their business better and how to manage them consistent with Bible-based principles.

"Our history has been that people who stay in can dramatically help their business," Tampa C12 Chairman Scott Hitchcock told Coffee Talk. Hitchcock was the former Dale Carnegie franchise owner in Tampa.

C12 was founded in Tampa, which still has one of its largest franchises, with about 80 members. There are about 48 C12 organizations around the country, with about 500 members.

C12 is one of a host of organizations, such as the CEO Council of Tampa Bay, that CEOs join for outside advice in helping run their companies (See GCBR story Feb. 22).

The contact for the new group in Fort Myers is John Shelford. His telephone number is (239) 293-4848.

+ Flagler Westshore purchase

expensive, development delayed

Coral Gables-based Flagler Development Group appears to be waging a big bet on its new Westshore property.

Last month, the developer bought 7.17 acres at the southwest corner of West Laurel and North O'Brien streets from Tampa-based developer Pro-Ject International.

The Review has since learned that Flagler Development paid $11 million for the two parcels, equal to $1.53 million per acre, an amount higher than the typical market price based on the land's current zoning.

"The marketing fundaments do not appear to support the price," says James Ullrich, investment specialist with the Clearwater office of Colliers Arnold. However, Ullrich, who was not involved in the sale, emphasizes that his assessment is based only the properties current characteristics and changes in zoning could bring the price more in line with current land values.

Flagler officials say the company is still evaluating its development plans, which likely include office buildings and a possible hotel, and that it could likely stretch out beyond 2009. That delay makes sense to Paula Buffa, senior director with GVA Advantis, who handles office properties in the Westshore area.

"It's a great site and would certainly be a good addition to the area with maybe a nice mixed-used development there," Buffa says. "Not right now though. We've got several [office] buildings coming online, and the market is a little slow. But Flagler is wise to see that down the road it will be a nice location to develop on."

+ Fight to widen

Pine Island Road

Builders in Cape Coral plan to redouble their efforts to widen the busy Pine Island Road corridor despite the governor's veto.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bill that would have paid for the widening of the vital east-west arterial road. This was money that had been secured by Rep. Gary Aubuchon, a Cape Coral Republican and president of Aubuchon Homes.

Now, builders and other businesses in Cape Coral will have the opportunity to convert Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos at a meeting on July 29 at the First Baptist Church. Judging from the messages flying around town, every pew will be filled.

+ Not your parents'

flea market

You may have thought flea markets were a thing of the past, but a newly built one in Collier County takes the concept to a whole new level.

The Big Cypress Market Place on U.S. 41 in Collier County opened recently and it isn't your typical sprawling complex of stalls selling bric-a-brac.

For starters, Big Cypress Market Place is air-conditioned. It features a tiki bar, a produce market, a winery, a two-story food arena with eight restaurants, an entertainment stage and brick patios for outdoor dining. There are more than 140 vendors in 90,000 square feet developed by Basik Development.

+ Upscale property shop

coming to Westshore

Engel & Voelkers, the German-based upscale property shop, is coming to Tampa's Westshore business district.

The company is looking to open a location near International Mall in the coming months. Engel & Voelkers showcases upscale homes from around the world.

This new franchise location joins an already existing South Tampa Engel & Voelkers and adds to the growing Bay area family of franchises that include a downtown St. Petersburg Engel & Voelkers site set to open later this summer, and three additional shops planned for Pinellas County.

 Ray Alexander, a West Coast Realtor and broker, recently acquired the licensee rights to the Engel & Voelkers property shop serving Anna Maria Island, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton and Longboat Key. Alexander will share ownership of the Westshore franchise with Michal Winiarek. Winiarek first introduced the Engel & Voelkers brand to the Tampa Bay area by opening a location in Hyde Park Village late last year.

Alexander participated as the listing agent in the recent sale of a $10.25 million Belleair Bluffs estate, which was listed and sold within 60 days

Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, the company enables brokers, buyers, sellers and agents to access luxury home listings available at nearly 400 property shops on five continents.  

With the announcement of the Westshore Engel & Voelkers real estate shop, a total of six franchise locations are now slated to open within the Tampa Bay region in the coming months. No other area of Florida has a higher concentration of franchise commitments within a single market.

+ What retail downturn?

Not in Naples

There's still shopping in Naples.

Luxury department store Nordstrom plans to open a 77,000-square-foot store at Waterside Shops in Naples Nov. 7. It will be Nordstrom's ninth store in Florida.

To celebrate, the store plans a gala Nov. 5 where officials hope to raise $125,000 for the Community Foundation of Collier County, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and The League Club. Guests who pay $125 each for the gala will get a sneak preview of the store as well as hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, dinner, desserts and live entertainment.

+ Moving forward

a dollar at a time

PeakBiety, a Tampa advertising firm, had a special challenge recently when coming up with a campaign for the Cancer Research Alliance, which raises funds to help eradicate cancer.

The Alliance is a 12-member organization of some of the nation's top cancer research centers and was looking for a way to boost donations even in tough economic times.

PeakBiety worked with the Alliance to develop a campaign around the theme, "The infinite power of one." Email marketing, Web banner ads, radio spots and a Web-aired video explain that, if everyone gave just one dollar and passed the message on to their friends, the face of cancer could be forever changed.

Viewers and listeners were then directed to www.celebrations.com, a party-planning Web site partnering with the CRA to collect the donations. In addition to giving a dollar, donors were invited to add their photos to a cure mosaic on the site to "change the face of cancer." Time has not determined yet if the campaign is a success.

+ Correction

In the July 18 issue, a headline in the 40-under-40 special section misspelled the last name of Kevin and Karen Dubree. In the issue, the name of the Smile Design dental practice was incorrectly identified.

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