A Post Road East retail center that has drawn shoppers for nearly 40 years has been sold to a national commercial property investment firm for $54.25 million.
The Kowalsky family, which has its roots in Westport, sold the Village Center -- an 89,041-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Fresh Market grocery store -- to Equity One, headquartered in New York City and North Miami Beach, Fla.
Located at 605-645 Post Road East on 7.55 acres on both sides of the highway, the center includes four buildings and was opened by the Kowalsky family in 1974. The original anchor store was a Grand Union supermarket.
Besides the Fresh Market, other tenants include Dunkin' Donuts, Little Gym, a UPS Store, KOKO Fit Club and SweetFrog, according to Jon Angel, president of Angel Commercial, a Fairfield-based commercial real estate firm that represented the seller.
"They elected to sell as a result of the current market conditions. There is a high demand for irreplaceable properties such as this since the current zoning codes prevent new construction exceeding 10,000 square feet in any one building," Angel said, referring to the Westport zoning regulations. "Furthermore, there is a strong and competitive audience to acquire cash flowing assets in proven retail markets. The demographic profile of the area created the opportunity to produce a reliable income with long-term growth."
Angel Commercial is familiar with the property because it has represented it in tenant searches, said Brett Sherman, senior vice president of the real estate firm, who has been leasing agent for the Village Center since 2008.
"The procurement of quality tenants for the retail center has increased the property's value, making this a desirable acquisition which attracted a tremendous amount of interest from both local and national buyers," he said, commenting that it is more than 95 percent leased.
The complex drew several suitors, but Equity One, which also owns Compo Acres Shopping Center in Westport, made the best offer in terms of price, terms and conditions, said Sherman.
Scott Gerard, of the law firm of Murtha Cullina, was the corporate counsel representing the seller.
Traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "EQY," Equity One owns retail sites across the country, including Copps Hill Plaza in Ridgefield, Danbury Green in Danbury, Darinor Plaza in Norwalk, Post Road Plaza in Darien, Southbury Green in Southbury and Brookside Plaza in Enfield.
There has been increased movement in retail center transactions, but few new starts, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, commenting that an occupancy level of more than 90 percent translates into a healthy shopping center.
"A shopping center in Westport will command a higher price point that other locations in the country," he said. "We're talking about top-10 affluent markets in the country."
She said she has been impressed by Equity One's maintenance of the Compo Acres Shopping Center, which is home to Trader Joe's, Jos. A. Bank, Robek's and other retailers.
"It's important that they understand the value of the community, and it appears that they do," Parrelli-Gray said.