Two local businessmen have purchased Sea Pines Center, a shopping mall on Hilton Head Island, from a Florida-based commercial real estate development firm.
The new buyers, Ned Payne and Frank Fowler, are part-time residents and longtime property owners on Hilton Head.
Payne was part of the original ownership group when the complex opened in 1984, and Fowler is president of the Harbour Town Boat Slip Owners Association.
The sale of the 65,000-square-foot center was completed Dec. 30 and announced Wednesday by Club Group Ltd., the property-management firm for Sea Pines Center for about six years. The Club Group will continue to manage the center.
"Both of the gentlemen have a great deal of experience and retail contacts that we hope can attract new tenants to the center," said Mark King, Club Group president and CEO.
Payne and Fowler were unavailable for comment.
Six of the center's 23 retail spaces are vacant, King said, adding that the owners plan to modernize the center and improve its appearance.
Conceptual plans have been drafted and could be "substantially in place by this summer," King said.
He declined to describe the changes, but Dennis Jaworski, head of the center's merchant's association, had an idea of what's in store.
"I remember meeting with (the new buyers) recently, and they mentioned changing the entrance to the center and some other visual changes," he said.
"I said these things are all very nice, but until you've got lights on in the windows, it doesn't matter. We can't put a party together and have no one come."
Jaworski said the center's vacancy rate had increased in the past three years, and the old owners lacked the funding to adequately market available space.
He added that merchants were optimistic about the new owners' ability to recruit businesses to fill the vacancies.
In addition to the retail space, the center offers a gas station and convenience store, two restaurants and a spa. It also houses offices for several businesses and for the Heritage Classic Foundation, as well as the operational offices for the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
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