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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Friday, Jun. 28, 2019 2 weeks ago

Former skating rink presents unique commercial real estate challenge

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To find the ideal tenant for the former Stardust Skate Center, Loyd Robbins is using direct marketing  — and keeping an open mind in terms of unforeseen possibilities.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

When the music faded, the disco ball stopped spinning and the skaters stepped off the rink for the last time, a new chapter began for the building that once housed Stardust Skate Center.

The well-known Sarasota property is now for lease, awaiting a tenant. And Loyd Robbins, president and principal broker at Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc. — and a well-known broker in town — is tasked with finding the ideal business for the 24,000-square-foot facility.

The Stardust building has been on the market for a little over a year. Robbins' firm started talking with the owners, husband and wife Larry and Ronni Tasman, about future plans for the property about two or three months before the skating rink closed. “They’ve been good members of the community for many, many years, so they want to make sure it’s something good for the community,” Robbins says. “They would rather take their time and get the right tenant than go through the hassle of finding a new tenant.”

Finding the right fit for the property presents a commercial real estate challenge. Since the building was used for such a specific purpose, Robbins must identify other businesses that would be a good match and convey the vision of the new use to them. To do that, the firm is marketing directly to specific groups of potential end users and keeping an open mind about other possibilities.

“We feel the days of just sticking a sign up and hoping someone sees it are gone. You have to be more creative with your marketing.”  — Loyd Robbins, Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc.

Robbins is positioning the building as a warehouse, distribution facility or wholesale showroom. The owners’ first choice is to lease the facility, but they would consider selling it.

The roughly 24,000-square-foot building could be used by one tenant; split into three users in 8,000-square-foot increments; or two 12,000-square-foot spaces. The building, 2571 12th St., is in an industrial setting on a well-trafficked road across the street from Ed Smith Stadium, spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles. It’s offered at $8.50 per square foot.  

Robbins says his firm has had quite a bit of interest in the property. But so far, they haven’t found a tenant the owners want to move forward with.

The biggest challenge, Robbins says, is it’s a hybrid-type property. It’s not a true industrial location — it has a higher value than that. But it’s also not retail. “We’re looking for that middle ground — someone who wants exposure and a recognizable address, but not being in a true retail higher-priced setting,” he says.

Robbins has marketed the building on commercial real estate and industry websites, as well as in industry publications. Industry websites have helped the Robbins team identify specific leads. Before sending marketing materials, Robbins does research to determine who the key decision-makers are. “Then we try to get it placed directly in their hands, either by email or mail,” he says.

Robbins also identified businesses operating in surrounding markets that don’t have a presence in Sarasota yet. The pitch? The Stardust facility would give them the chance to expand their reach and grow their business. “We feel the days of just sticking a sign up and hoping someone sees it are gone,” Robbins says. “You have to be more creative with your marketing.”

Potential targets include electrical, plumbing and air conditioning supply companies. Furniture stores have also looked at the facility, and Robbins has had interest from people wanting to open family entertainment and concert venues.

While marketing the property to some categories of end-users, Robbins has received feedback about why the facility wouldn’t work for them. That’s allowed him to continue to refine the marketing approach.

People have also approached Robbins about opening a variety of other businesses at the facility: a fitness center, a baseball training facility, an indoor sports arena and a craft brewery. “It meets the zoning criteria for them to manufacture, puts them in a location where there’s activity around them near downtown, plus it’s across from Ed Smith,” Robbins says of the breweries. Churches have looked at the property, too, attracted by the size and location.

Because of the diversity of interest in the property, Robbins is constantly adding to the list of potential businesses and organizations to market to. “It’s just a matter of identifying those opportunities," he says, "and getting the information in their hand and painting the vision.”

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