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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 24, 2016 3 years ago

Deal shop

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Dan Creighton has a knack for finding redevelopment deals that other retail developers have missed. Now he's expanding out of state.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

You'll have to forgive Dan Creighton for being coy about where he thinks the hot areas are for future retail redevelopment.

After all, Creighton has a track record of spotting redevelopment deals that others have missed. Often, in hindsight, these deals have been in plain sight for years.

For example, Creighton acquired a run-down hotel on U.S. 41 a few years ago that is now one of the busiest stretches of that road in Fort Myers with a Wawa convenience store, Culver's and Chipotle restaurants. Across the street on the northwest corner of U.S. 41, another neglected parcel that Creighton scooped up is now packed with shops such as Pet Supermarket and restaurants such as Tijuana Flats. “Re-valuing property is big business,” he says.

Some deals aren't necessarily big high-profile corners, either. Creighton acquired a 1.5-acre parcel near Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers for $1.6 million that had a bank branch a few years ago. He redeveloped it to include a 7-Eleven convenience store and Jimmy John's sandwich shop and recently sold the property for more than $5 million.

Creighton has had similar success in Cape Coral, where his company Creighton Commercial Development & Construction is based. He has spearheaded increased development on the busy Pine Island Road corridor, convincing national retailers the area is underserved.

Creighton's deals have things in common: “They all have traffic, they all have population,” he says. “Most of them have a little eyesore and they're highly underutilized.”

Creighton is humble about his success, calling it “90% luck, 10% skill.” But his formula has worked well, and he plans to continue by expanding to Texas, Colorado and Louisiana.

As the 100-person firm's rainmaker, Creighton says “consistent persistence” is what pays off. It might take as long as two years to close a deal, but he'll keep pursuing them to maintain a pipeline of projects that currently totals 23 projects today. Creighton says he's conservative when it comes to making deals, working with banks such as First Florida Integrity Bank, Busey Bank and Stonegate Bank to finance his projects.

Creighton remains confident in Southwest Florida's retail boom over the next 18 to 24 months, but he says the cycle may be nearing a peak. “There's several deals like that left,” he says. “They're getting a little scarce.”

Population growth will continue to drive retail development, though Creighton says Florida ought to be more aggressive in attracting jobs the way Texas has. “Florida is missing the boat. We need to go get business,” he says. “We're not being aggressive.”

Creighton has been scouting north of the Fort Myers area to Sarasota. “Charlotte is a great market,” he says. “It's by and large been overlooked by developers. That's a highly underserved market.”

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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