The Real Deal Miami

Motwani may sell Las Olas Riverfront

Property could be developed as major residential, retail and hotel development

September 24, 2015 03:00PM
By Sean Stewart-Muniz

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The Las Olas Riverfront, Dev Motwani and a conceptualization of what could be built on the property

The Las Olas Riverfront, Dev Motwani and a conceptualization of what could be built on the property

A partnership led by Dev Motwani is considering selling Las Olas Riverfront and is marketing it as a major redevelopment site in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Merrimac Ventures, a real estate company headed by the Motwani family, is accepting offers for the low-rise shopping center that occupies 3.67 acres of prime waterfront land, Motwani confirmed to The Real Deal. The property is being marketed by CBRE.

The retail center first opened its 244,656 square feet of leasable space in 1998. It was later lost to foreclosure during the real estate downturn when its previous owners lost a $23 million foreclosure judgment to an affiliate of New York’s Cerberus Capital Management, according to Broward County records.

In 2011, an affiliate of Merrimac paid the Cerberus affiliate $16.7 million to acquire the site.

Much of the retail space was vacant during the downturn and remains empty today. A Sun-Sentinel article from 2013 estimated the vacancies to be around 80 percent.

Our intent from day one has always been to redevelop the property alongside a world class mixed-use development partner, and we’ve engaged CBRE to help identify the right partner interested in a joint venture,” Dev Motwani, president of Merrimac, said in a statement. “In the process, we’ve received significant interest among potential buyers interested in an outright purchase, so we are entertaining those proposals as well.”

Though there’s not an official asking price, similar properties like the vacant land at 100 East Las Olas Boulevard and the funeral home at 299 North Federal Highway have sold for upwards of $20 million per acre. At that price point, this shopping center could trade for more than $60 million.

Merrimac’s concept for the property included major residential, hotel and retail components, plus a possible office portion. The scope of that project is unknown, but Robert Given of CBRE told TRD that the land could support up to “a little under half the size of Brickell City Centre.”

Given, who is marketing the site on behalf of Merrimac, told TRD that Riverfront isn’t using the land to its full potential. When it was first built roughly 20 years ago, Fort Lauderdale wasn’t experiencing the kind of development surge it is in this cycle.

Its close proximity to the upcoming All Aboard Florida station and Fort Lauderdale’s central business district makes this one of the city’s most important development sites, Given said.

“It’s just a great opportunity for Fort Lauderdale residents to get this property redeveloped,” he said. “It’s a true amenity to the city; I’d love to see it come to fruition this real estate cycle.”

Earlier this month, Merrimac took out a $20 million mortgage on Riverfront with the option to boost it an extra $20 million. Motwani said in a statement that the loan has no impact on Merrimac’s plans for the shopping center.