JUNO BEACH, Fla. — It's a big change for a small town.
The Plaza La Mer shopping center in the heart of Juno Beach is now under new ownership.Property recordsshow a Chicago-based developer purchased the more than 10-acre shopping center in September for more than $27 million.
Bucksbaum Properties, the new owner of the plaza, released a press release announcing the acquisition.
Now, some business owners said they are faced with an uncertain future, surrounded by surging development up and down the south Florida coast.
"We want to stay here. We don't want to go anywhere, but it’s concerning because you look around at all of this development and its like, what’s going to happen next?” Rick Opton, owner of Loggerhead Fitness, said.
Opton said because Juno Beach is a barrier island, Plaza La Mer is one of the only options for residents of the town to get their amenities.
"It’s one of those sleepy little towns," Opton said. "A beachside corridor. This goes away, you’re forcing people to have to go over that bridge."
A few doors down at Adopt a Cat Foundation's resale store, John Wood, president of the nonprofit, said he was worried ever since Bucksbaum let the cat out of the bag.
"We rescue the unwanted, the street cats, the forgotten felines," Wood said “I would hate to lose this location. This store provides about 80% of the revenue we need to be in business.”
No future plans have been announced for the plaza, and Bucksbaum Properties declined to officially comment on the project.
Still, Juno Beach Mayor Alexander Cooke hopes the town and the plaza can keep its charm.
"Bucksbaum looks like a decent purchaser for a situation like this because they’re not the type that typically blows it up and turns it into something larger, which is a big concern for us," Cooke said.
Technically, the plaza is zoned for 80% residential and 20% commercial use, so if he wanted to, Bucksbaum Property CEO John Bucksbaum could turn much of it into homes down the road.
However, many of the businesses in the plaza, including Loggerhead Fitness, told WPTV they already renewed their leases with the new owner for the next five years.
Taking a look at Bucksbaum's past projects, it also appears bulldozing businesses isn't their style.
Instead, previous undertakings include giving retail-oriented plazas a face-lift and adding in additional amenities, such as office space, entertainment, dining and about 150 to 200 residential units, such as multi-family homes.
“That’s better than what it could have been," Cooke said.
Cooke added that part of his concern is that a future owner could move redevelop down the road.
“But, again, they locked in those leases for another five years, so we know we’re pretty protected for the foreseeable future," Cooke said.
That alone was a sign of encouragement for Opton, as concerns for the future weight heavier and heavier.
“Five [years] isn’t quite long enough, but it certainly puts us at ease, because us and the tenants, we just aren’t quite sure, so we’ll wait and see," Opton said. “The type of services that we offer and this whole plaza offers, it's really important that they stay here in Juno Beach. It would be a shame to see this place leveled and a bunch of condos put up.”
In the news release, John Bucksbaum released the following statement:
"We are excited about the acquisition of Plaza La Mer and the opportunities it presents in enhancing our retail portfolio. Our flexible capital, extensive industry experience, and unparalleled track record in development, property management, and leasing uniquely position us to capitalize on assets like Plaza La Mer and execute our strategy effectively in various markets across the United States."
Cooke and other tenants hopedif the company does add other amenities, the former TBC Corporation building that sat vacant for years could house them.