A two-and-a-half-year real estate development process came to partial fruition last Friday when the largest tenant at The Shoppes at 11th opened for business at U.S. 1 and 11th Street.
It was a bittersweet moment for Randy Tulepan, the broker behind the project. He is happy to see The Shoppes open, of course, but the success of that and other development projects on U.S. 1 between the 4th Street to the south and the 90-degree bend at 20th Street to the north have driven up property prices along the busy highway, making future development more challenging.
“I don’t know if we could do a similar project now,” said Tulepan, vice president of Roberts Equities, a mid-size real estate development and holding company with offices in Boca Raton. “The land is getting too expensive.”
In the past two years, a Cumberland Farms store, a Wawa, a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and a number of other retail stores and restaurants have opened along the stretch, transforming the look of the highway that carries tourists and locals through the heart of Vero Beach.
The 15,000-square-foot building that opened on Friday was purpose-built by Roberts Equities for Goodwill Industries, which has moved its operation to the new location from its former spot next to the postal annex in the K-Mart shopping plaza a mile north.
When The Shoppes at 11th are complete, the center will include a 7,000-square-foot O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, a fast-food restaurant and another retail tenant, possibly a cellphone store, in addition to the new Goodwill store.
The project got underway in March 2015 when Roberts Equities purchased a 3.65-acre bank-owned parcel with 300 linear feet of frontage on the east side of the highway for $1.25 million. The property at 1066 U.S. 1, which extends from 10th Place on the south to 11th Street on the north, formerly was the location of a Lincoln Mercury dealership.
The company liked the site in part because, according to its analysis, more than 25,000 vehicles pass by each day and there are more than 45,000 households with an average income of $67,564 within a 15 minute drive-time radius.
The company has since sold off one outparcel where O’Reilly will build its own store in the near future. It retains ownership of the rest of the property and the new building, which it is leasing to Goodwill.
“The building was constructed specifically for Goodwill,” Tulepan explained. “We did all the construction management and project management in-house. Rick Bittner, who works with me, handled the design and construction of the entire site.”
The new building has a similar amount of retail space as Goodwill’s former location, plus a large back room where donations can be sorted and made ready for display.
It also has something the other place did not have – a drive-up carport on the building’s southern corner, where both the public and Goodwill trucks can unload donations protected from rain and other inclement weather.
“That space in the back is crucial,” said Brian Itzkowitz, chief operating officer for Goodwill in Indian River County.
Hours before the store opened last week, people were already standing outside waiting to get in and have first pick of the newly stocked merchandise. When they entered, they found the retail floor packed with racks of clothing. Shelves in the back of the store were full of dishes, glassware, vinyl record albums, DVD movies and a wide array of odds and ends.
Itzkowitz, who has a background in retail, talked about how he and his associates choreographed the move.
“We closed the other store at 5:30 p.m., and immediately began moving the inventory here,” he said. “Since we didn’t get the CO (certificate of occupancy) until very recently, we had little choice.”
The rush prompted Goodwill to ditch the grand opening planned for Friday.
“Yet people still found us,” Itzkowitz quipped. Looking around the store at the white walls with large blue lettering, he added “I think it turned out pretty well.”
While Goodwill is known best for giving used clothing a second life, just as Robert’s Equities gave the abandoned car dealership site a second incarnation, its resources are impressive. On its website, the Maryland-based nonprofit notes annual retail sales of $4.16 billion.
Still on the drawing board for Tulepan at the Shoppes is a 4,000-square-foot freestanding building that will house the restaurant and third retail tenant.
Besides the Shoppes, Robert’s Equities redeveloped the Cumberland Farms site at U.S. 1 and 17th Street. Tulepan says his company has since sold that property to an investor who leases the land to Cumberland.