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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 5, 201412:00 PM EST

Developer Ben Carter sells his half of St. Johns Town Center


The St. Johns Town Center has a new half-owner.

Atlanta-based developer Ben Carter sold his 50 percent ownership of the popular Southside shopping center last week to a Deutsche Bank group.

Real estate insiders said the price for Carter’s stake in the center was more than $375 million. Carter declined to provide the price.

“I’m delighted that this worked out well for my long-term partner, Simon, the new partner and Ben Carter Enterprises,” he said in a statement through Tony Wilbert, a spokesman for Carter.

Carter, a developer of the Southside shopping center with Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, said the deal closed Friday.

A spokesman for Simon Property Group, which continues to own 50 percent of the mall, said he had no comment.

Simon will continue to manage the mall, Carter said.

Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management’s real estate investment group bought Carter’s 50 percent. Deutsche Bank declined comment.

Carter said in March he was working with Eastdil Secured, a New York investment bank, to examine the value of the center to see what his half-ownership would be worth. He said the St. Johns Town Center, at the Interstate 295 East Beltway and Gate Parkway, is what the industry refers to as a trophy asset.

The center opened nine years ago and expects to open its newest wing, anchored by the area’s first Nordstrom department store, Oct. 10. The center features the area’s only Tiffany & Co., Apple store, The Cheesecake Factory and other retailers and restaurants that are exclusive there.

“It has been a top-performing regional mall ever since we opened it and every expansion we’ve done has continued to be very, very successful, so it’s very appealing to institutional investors,” Carter said in March.

Carter said Simon Property Group is the world’s largest owner of retail properties.

“The opportunity for people to partner with Simon Property Group is a very unique investment strategy for institutional investors. We are trying to see what sort of value or partnership interest there might be and if it’s a value that we feel is commensurate with the quality of the asset, we might consider selling it,” he said in March.

At the time, Carter did not say what that value might be and declined to comment on reports that the center might be valued at $750 million. The Real Estate Alert newsletter reported that bids for Carter’s 50 percent stake in the Town Center “are expected to value the property at up to $750 million, amid intense demand for high-quality retail properties.”

St. Johns Town Center is a 1.2 million-square-foot retail and restaurant center developed as an open-air lifestyle center. Adjacent properties include apartments and condos that trade off the St. Johns Town Center vibe.

A decade ago, Carter’s Atlanta-based Ben Carter Properties in partnership with Simon Property Group transformed more than 200 acres along Butler Boulevard into the region’s major shopping draw.

St. Johns Town Center opened March 18, 2005, and added a second phase that opened Oct. 26, 2007. It brought many retailers new to the Jacksonville market, including the Nordstrom soon to open. The Nordstrom wing is Phase III.

Now with more than 1.2 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, the Town Center intends to open the Nordstrom wing, with eight more retailers, which will add more than 158,000 square feet of retail space.

The Town Center has 11 anchor stores and 175 specialty stores and restaurants.

Simon Property Group owns or has an interest in more than 325 retail real estate properties in North America and Asia comprising about 243 million square feet.

Carter said he sold Ben Carter Properties to his partners in 2012 and that he is active in new developments as Ben Carter Enterprises.

“I’m actually not sure that regional malls or town centers are in great demand in the Southeast, which is my territory,” he said, adding he is developing outlet malls among other projects.

Wilbert said Carter is spending his time in Savannah where he has acquired 27 buildings in the historic downtown to revitalize Broughton Street for retail development. He has contract on 11 more.

Another of Ben Carter Enterprises’ new developments is the Outlet Mall of Georgia, projected to open in spring 2015 with more than 560,000 square feet of stores and restaurants at I-95 and Pooler Parkway. He is working with Steve Tanger, president and CEO of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, to develop the center, now referred to as Tanger Savannah.

Ben Carter Enterprises says on its website that it has developed more than $1.1 billion, and nearly 5 million square feet, of retail and office projects since it was formed in 1993.

It describes itself as a full-service commercial real estate firm with four areas of specialization: development, asset management, leasing and brokerage. It develops and services class A office buildings and a mix of retail properties ranging from regional malls and open-air lifestyle centers to power and strip shopping centers.

Carter said he is working on another fashion outlet in Augusta, Georgia, and his new company wants to develop urban retail mixed-use as well.

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