Marco Island waterfront retail center Esplande sells for more than $9.5 million

— The Esplanade shops have sold on Marco Island.

The 50,000-square-foot waterfront retail center, once owned by developer Jack Antaramian and other partners, sold for more than $9.5 million, according to Collier County property records.

The sale, which closed April 17, did not include any of the private residences upstairs or the marina, except for eight public boat slips, Antaramian said.

"It's a magnificent piece of property," he said. "It can't be duplicated."

The property is on Smokehouse Bay, at the intersection of Collier Boulevard and West Elkcam Circle, in the heart of the city.

The buyer is GM Esplanade LLC, a company set up to acquire the property, with the money coming through Continental Realty Corp., a Baltimore-based real estate investment and development group.

Continental has invested in other Southwest Florida commercial property, and recently bought The Shops at Verandah, a 73,000-square-foot neighborhood shopping center in Fort Myers.

Repeated calls to Continental's CEO J.M. Shapiro and others at the firm were not immediately returned, and no one reached at the company would comment beyond confirming the sale. Mike Clawson, center manager, and Nancy O'Meara, director of property management for Continental, both said that further information should come from Shapiro.

Premier Sotheby's International Realty has a very visible location at the Esplanade shopping center, primarily focused on residential real estate. Tom Bringardner, president of Premier Commercial Inc., a sister company, said the past few years have been tough ones in the real estate industry, equally or more so in commercial than in residential.

"Everyone who has been in business knows it's been a very difficult market," he said.

Although Antaramian has suffered along with other commercial real estate developers through the economic downturn, he said the shopping center wasn't in financial turmoil and that it's about 85 percent leased.

"It wasn't troubled. It's just the partners didn't get along."

Antaramian and three partners – Fred Pezeshkan, Robert Morris and Robert Carsello – built the retail center as part of a mixed-used project in 2002, going under the name A & N of Marco Inc. The project included a marina and condominiums.

Pezeshkan is president and CEO of Manhattan Construction (Florida), a general contractor formerly known as Kraft Construction. Kraft built the Esplanade project.

"The project came in over budget by over $4 million. I was upset then and I'm upset now," Antaramian said.

Antaramian and Pezeshkan are at odds over another project they were partners in, the Naples Bay Resort near Tin City off U.S. 41 East.

Last year, Antaramian and several other creditors filed an involuntary petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy against Naples Bay Resort's development company, Basil Street Partners, which he's a partner in along with Pezeshkan and two other investors in the project.

Regions Bank, a lead lender, foreclosed on the Naples Bay Resort project in 2010 after Antaramian and his partners defaulted on a $36 million mortgage. Antaramian later stepped into the shoes of the bank, buying the note for about $8.7 million.

The sale of the Esplanade shops has been in the works since October 2011, with the same buyer, Antaramian said.

The city once considered buying the Esplanade property for a public marina and public access to the waterfront, but it was voted down, Antaramian said.

The property, though developed, still offers public access to the Gulf of Mexico.

"You can enter one side of the property and you can walk 1,000 feet on the waterfront and you can walk out the other side," Antaramian said.

Eight of the marina's boat slips can be used by the public, while the others are privately owned, he said.

Gary Tasman, founder and executive director of Cushman & Wakefield in Fort Myers, which handles leasing for the commercial space at the Esplanade, said there has been a lot of interest since the property has changed hands.

"We're getting inquiries from upscale boutiques, salons and day spas, and restaurants," he said.

Staff writer Laura Layden contributed to this story.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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