POINCIANA – Greg Scott works as the property manager for a company that manages four shopping plazas in Poinciana, and he often gets questions about one of those plazas, the Poinciana Towne Center.
More than a few of the questions are about the large – and, for the past few years, vacant – Winn-Dixie store that long served as the main anchor for the plaza.
Yes, Scott said, it’s true that Winn-Dixie is still paying rent on the property, even though the massive store is empty.
That’s where the biggest misconception comes in, he added.
“Some people are asking, is it true we’re not interested in leasing space there because we’re already collecting rent,” Scott said. “That’s not true. Winn-Dixie is still in possession of that building. They’re still paying rent on it. But we would like to bring an active tenant in there. That would be good for the site. Business begets more business.”
Scott is the property manager for SEC Commercial Realty Group. He said there have been too many unanswered questions and, unfortunately, misperceptions about what is happening to the Winn-Dixie plaza that he oversees.
So Scott decided on Monday to take his case directly to the people of Poinciana, when he agreed to meet with the members of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, a civic group that held its monthly meeting at the Poinciana Library.
“Poinciana is full of rumors,” said Keith Laytham, the president of PRSC, adding that he wanted Scott to come to one of their meetings to talk about the company’s long term goals.
“I think that’s important for the community to understand,” he said.
Scott said his company now manages 35 properties in this state.
“We have grocery-anchored neighborhood shopping centers,” he said. “The majority of our shopping centers are Publix shopping centers, but we also have some Targets and Sweet Bays as well.”
There are four they manage in Poinciana, including the Village Shops at the Bellalago development, the Poinciana Promeda, the Solivita Marketplace and the Poinciana Towne Center.
“The Poinciana Promenade is a Publix-anchored shopping center,” Scott said. “This is more or less what I would consider a classically anchored shopping center.”
And a successful one, Laytham added.
“I know that Publix is doing very well,” Laytham said. “I go there and it’s always packed.”
Scott said SEC Commercial also has high expectations for the Solivita Marketplace, since it exists right next door to where the new Poinciana Medical Center is being built.
“We’re excited about the hospital coming in, just like everybody else is,” he said. “We think that portends good things for Solivita Marketplace.”
The one he gets the most questions about, though, is the Poinciana Towne Center, largely because that shopping plaza is anchored to a store that’s empty, and has been for two years.
“Everybody wants to know what’s happening to Poinciana Towne Center,” he said. “We’re working on that now to get tenants.”
But rather than lease that massive space to one large store, Scott said SEC hopes to subdivide the property into numerous offices and bring in multiple tenants. The company is now in negotiations on that with several businesses, including a national rent-to-own store and a large grocery chain.
“We’re looking to take the former Winn-Dixie and subdivide it into spaces,” he said. “That’s a deal that we’re presently working on. I think there’s a fairly good chance it will happen.”
Although he did not want to identify the grocery chain while they’re still in negotiations, he added, “This grocer would be less than a third of the size of Winn-Dixie.”
One thing that is not likely to go in there, he added, is a new Salvation Army office. There have been efforts to bring a Salvation Army office to Poinciana, and the Winn-Dixie building has been mentioned as a possible space for them. The nearest Salvation Army office to Poinciana is in Kissimmee.
“We did have some talks with the Salvation Army,” said Mike Byrum, SEC’s leasing agent.
“We had some discussions and negotiations with them, but it didn’t pan out,” Scott added.
Scott said people also ask him if SEC will consider lowering its rents at Poinciana Towne Center to help bring in new shops.
“People ask, ‘Why don’t you keep reducing rents to bring more tenants in,’ “ he said. “We don’t want to turn it into a flea market. I’m trying to maintain the property as best as I can. If we can bring national brands back in, that will help a lot.”
But it’s a challenge, he said, when the economy has left a lot of retailers cautious about where they go.
“I’d like to see the center have more activity and make the entire center more marketable,” he said. “That is what drives traffic to the center, major national anchors. But the economy is tough. Leasing is a challenge. I don’t see this being an overnight change.”
Roxanne Graham, a resident of Poinciana, said the plaza itself looks run down, and she wondered if Winn-Dixie was responsible for maintaining the look of the property.
“I would think eventually Winn-Dixie will do something if they want someone to go into the property,” she said.
“Winn-Dixie is supposed to take care of all the landscaping in front of the Winn-Dixie building,” Scott said, adding that the chain probably has another two years on its lease.
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