People don’t visit the north end of Longboat Key.
It’s been repeated at meetings, in conversations and in letters to the editor. It’s almost considered conventional wisdom. Exhibit A: the north-end Whitney Beach Plaza, which sits approximately 85% empty.
But Brian Kenney, principal of the Boston-based Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC, doesn’t believe that has to be a fact of Longboat life. With the right mix of amenities, he thinks that the plaza will draw customers, not only from Longboat Key, but from off the island as well. He believed that in October, when he confirmed his company’s plans to buy the plaza, and he believes it now.
In the two months that followed, he got proof that residents want to patronize the plaza after receiving letters from dozens of residents who told him what they would like to see in the plaza.
“People are echoing what we think,” Kenney said. “They want coffee, alcohol and places to eat.”
On Dec. 17, his company purchased the plaza and its liquid assets, including the liquor license held by former owner Andrew Hlywa, for $3.7 million. Now, the company will begin a 60- to 90-day push to attract tenants.
Kenney said that his biggest challenge will be securing an anchor tenant for the 12,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by The Market and Whitney Beach Deli and Wines. But he doesn’t consider it too big of a challenge.
“The lack of amenities on the island and the fact that certain services aren’t on Longboat Key makes it an optimal site,” Kenney said.
Currently, Kenney is negotiating with a national retailer, although he is open to any credit-worthy, long-term tenant. Eventually, he hopes to secure a variety of national and local tenants that could include a bank, bar and additional restaurants.
Although the plaza needs renovations and could need layout modifications, Kenney said that the basic design of the plaza works.
“The existing footprint, for the most part, makes sense for our plans,” he said.
Renovations will be made as the company secures tenants, but, by next year, Kenney estimates that his company will have invested $2 million in the plaza — and that the plaza will be nearly full.
“We’re planning on an aggressive 2011,” he said.
And he isn’t just talking about plans for Whitney Beach Plaza — or Longboat Key, for that matter. Juliani Kenney is expanding its presence in Southwest Florida and is looking for more retail development opportunities. Founded in 2007 by Kenney, who briefly worked as a stockbroker for Prudential Securities, and his friend, Rick Juliani, the company started out redeveloping distressed multi-family and commercial properties, but the company quickly shifted its focus to retail development. The company has redeveloped properties in the Boston area and recently secured land for and is in the permitting process for a 73.2-acre mixed-use development in Chapel Hill, N.C. Locally, the company hopes to expand its focus on retail development, with an emphasis on vacant, single-tenant sites.
“As the economy improves, I think 2011 will be a pretty good year,” Kenney said.
Occupation: Principal of Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC
Interests: Sports, spending time with friends and working out
Passion: Success and helping others
Interesting fact: Kenney’s lifelong dream is to be an actor, and without any experience he landed six auditions and a 45-minute meeting with actor Ben Affleck for the movie “The Town.”
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]