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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 2 weeks ago

Investor acquires aging tourist attraction in online auction for $17.2 million

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The Shops at John's Pass, an aging yet still popular attraction in Madeira Beach, was sold for $17.2 million.

Ben Mallah is at it again.

The commercial real estate investor — who made headlines earlier this year by buying former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard’s Belleair Shores mansion for $16.5 million — has acquired The Shops at John’s Pass Village, a tourist attraction in Madeira Beach, for $17.2 million.

Mallah tells Coffee Talk that unlike some of his past purchases, the aging collection of shops wasn’t an impulse buy. “I’ve been working on [acquiring] that property for over a year,” he says.

Mallah used the online auction platform Ten-X Commercial to buy the open-air, waterfront shopping center. According to a news release, the listing was viewed more than 8,300 times and drew 230 interested buyers, 11 of whom were qualified to bid on auction day.

“It was scary” to spend $17.2 million simply by pushing a button on the computer, Mallah says, but he’s happy with the purchase and intends to spend at least $1 million on infrastructure improvements that he hopes will attract a more diverse mix of commercial tenants.

“We’ve got to get the docks fixed and fill a whole bunch of empty space,” Mallah says. “It’s going to take us a while, but the place has good bones. It just needs better management and needs to be cleaned up — just some TLC. And we need to do some marketing.”

CBRE represented the seller, LCS Associates LLC, which acquired the property in 2008 when its longtime owners, the Hubbard family, went through bankruptcy.

"At 40,771 square feet, The Shops at John's Pass Village is the largest, single-ownership asset in the iconic John's Pass Village, the top tourist destination in Pinellas County," CBRE Senior Vice President Mark Shellabarger states in the release. "This was a very rare opportunity to acquire a high-profile, waterfront commercial property with retail shops, restaurants, a marina and a 325-space parking garage. It is simply a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable property.”

As for his next moves, the ever-busy Mallah says he’s in the process of selling a hotel in Orlando and acquiring a Winn-Dixie in Seminole. Never one to shy away from the limelight, he has also launched a new investment-based YouTube channel.

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