MANATEE -- Property Holdings Inc. is buying up vacant commercial property in Bradenton and rehabilitating the structures, hoping to lease them.
The former Miller Furniture building, 604 Manatee Ave. W., and the former Bradenton Health & Racquet Club, 6500 Manatee Ave. W., have been purchased and are being renovated.
Two of the company's partners are father-daughter team Vincent Crisci and Ariana Mellow. Crisci has been investing in real estate for a number of years and Mellow, who lives in Manhattan, graduated from law school in 2008, and joined her father in the investment venture.
Both believe Bradenton, particularly Manatee Avenue, has great potential for commercial growth coming out of depressed prices and vacancy caused by the real estate boom.
"We really love the area and we are looking for good deals," Mellow said.
The 18,000-square-foot former two-story gym was previously owned by developer Marvin Kaplan, and went into foreclosure in 2010 after his company Fit to be Tied defaulted on a $1.5 million loan by First Bank.
"We have done some work outside and now are working inside," Mellow said. "It has great frontage and we hope to get a large retailer, maybe a supermarket, in there."
The former Miller Furniture building was in foreclosure. Its recent owner, Horizon Bank, began renovations in 2010 to convert it into offices and an executive conference room. But the bank was closed by the FDIC in 2010 and its assets sold to Bank of the Ozarks. The property was purchased for around $200,000 about 1- 1/2 years ago.
"It looked pretty scary inside," Mellow said, noting that the building had been sitting empty for years.
The 26,000-square-foot property adjacent to the Tip Top Bar is divided into three sections -- a four-story building flanked by two two-story buildings, which are all connected.
"It has good bones, it's in a great location and has great views of the city," Mellow said. "It is basically a vacant shell that we are entirely gutting." She thinks the center building could be leased as loft-style apartments or condos with retail space around them for small businesses like a cafe or art gallery.
Both partners believe the area is ripe for commercial renovation and revitalization.
"I think we are past the bottom," Mellow said. "There is more interest in buying now and the prices are getting more competitive."
In early 2012, Crisci said he started getting more calls from people interested in leasing his properties.
"It became clear that people were no longer scared about expanding," he said. "The sun has come out."
Many commercial property owners are asking around $100 to $150 a square foot for their property, but to get a 7 to 8 percent return on investment, Crisci said he is able to pay around $60 to $70 a square foot.
He likes the fact that the area's demographics are getting better and big-name retailers like Fresh Market and Firestone Tire are opening up new establishments.
Stan Rutstein, a commercial Realtor with Re/Max Alliance Group, handled the sale of the two properties for the company, and agrees that the sale and pricing of commercial property in Manatee are improving.
"Office (commercial) is still lagging, but that depends on employment and growth," he said. "All my flex space has been gobbled up at advantageous prices."
Rutstein said retail has turned around and outparcel business has picked up.
"I'm bullish on this area for the next five years," he said. "The area is positioned to see some very nice growth."