Brian Kenney’s work uniform is often a T-shirt, jeans and Converse sneakers. At 35, he’s younger than the average Longboat Key resident.
But Kenney believes that the factors that make him stand out at Longboat Key Town Hall work in his favor.
His lack of formality shows that he’s willing to listen. In addition to meeting with town staff, he has chatted with dozens of Key residents about what they would like to see at Whitney Beach Plaza, which his company, the Boston-based Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC, purchased in December for $3.7 million.
With his age comes energy: the kind that allows him to work 70-hour weeks and talk business on his iPhone past 11 p.m.
Although his company has other projects, such as contracting on a 1,038-unit residential community in North Carolina, Longboat is the focus of much of that energy.
On May 5, the Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a hearing to discuss a possible overlay district in the plaza that would allow for the option of increasing the height and square footage of the shopping center, while allowing for the possibility of a residential component, as long as it doesn’t exceed 20% of the total project.
Later in May, Kenney will go to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) conference in Las Vegas, where he hopes to drum up interest in a junior anchor — possibly a bank — for the plaza. On June 6, the company is scheduled to go before the real-estate committee of a national retailer and potential anchor tenant. (A January Town Commission quarterly report stated that Walgreen’s has discussed the possibility of anchoring the plaza. Kenney has declined to comment.)
But Kenney’s vision for the plaza goes beyond securing tenants.
“In an ideal world we would be able to expand the footprint of the property,” he said.
When asked about rumors that a hotel chain has considered the plaza, Kenney said that he isn’t a hotel developer, although he echoed a familiar sentiment:
“There’s a lack of hotel rooms,” he said of the north end of the island. “When the Holiday Inn left (in 2000), that left a void.”
Longboat Key Vice Mayor David Brenner met Kenney approximately six months ago and was impressed by Kenney’s experience.
“My initial impression was that he’s much younger than the people who reside here, but, frankly, he had the enthusiasm that I think goes with his age,” Brenner said.
After studying finance at Assumption College, in Worcester, Mass., Kenney worked as a stockbroker in San Francisco, and then he moved back to Boston, where he opened two mortgage companies that grew to a combined 43 employees.
Kenney frequently worked with developers and his family’s political background gave him exposure to the political and permitting process, to the point that he often felt he was doing the heavy lifting in projects. In 2005, he met Rich Juliani, who had founded a construction company, which complemented Kenney’s experience.
The pair established Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC in 2006 and initially focused on small-scale residential real estate and retail. By late 2007, Juliani and Kenney began to focus on transactions involving distressed properties before the business became en vogue.
Today the firm is actively raising capital to establish a new fund with the purpose of purchasing distressed assets at a discount.
“I think the next three-to-four years will be the best opportunity that my company will ever see in my lifetime,” Kenney said.
Kenney said that some of those opportunities could lie elsewhere on Longboat Key. Despite the seasonal fluctuations in Longboat’s population, he believes that the north end has what retailers are looking for, including a high per-capita income and an under served market.
“I think some of what he envisions could be very positive for Longboat Key,” Brenner said.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]