Northport Under Sales Contract to Triple-Threat Team

Daily Business Review (Fort Lauderdale, FL) June 19, 2003 - by Terry Sheridan
Photo by: Melanie Bell

A powerhouse team of buyers that includes a former Republic Services executive, a prominent Fort Lauderdale hotelier and a retail real estate investor has entered into a contract to buy the long-troubled Northport Marketplace near Port Everglades.

The property will be repositioned as an upscale yachting and marine services center to be called Portside Yachting Center.

The buyers’ group consists of Mark Ellert, president of IAG Florida Group and developer of the Atlantic condo-hotel on Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront and the Renaissance Hotel near Northport; Steve Hudson, a former vice president of waste hauler Republic Services and now president of Hudson Capital Group; and Andrew Martin, a Fort Lauderdale investor who owns several shopping centers near Northport.

The group could close on the 75,000-square-foot property at 1850 SE 17th Street Causeway as early as June 26, but it has an option that extends the closing to mid-July, said Sylvan Rothschild, vice president of asset management for Lend Lease Real Estate Investments Inc. in Dallas, the asset manager for seller LaSalle Bank N.A.

“This is the best deal for everyone involved with this property, including the county and the 17th Street business corridor,” Rothschild said. “It’s been an eyesore for too long.”

He declined to name a purchase price, saying only that it is between $5 million and $10 million.

Martin, who is traveling, could not be reached for comment.

Conversion of the property to a yachting center fits the 17th Street Causeway, whose business mix includes marine-oriented companies.

In fact, Hudson will move his International Yacht Collection, a yacht brokerage, management, construction and charter company, from its 4,800-square-foot berth at the nearby Quay plaza to 11,000 square feet at the new Portside building.

Hudson, whose uncle is Fort Lauderdale billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, said he first considered buying Northport two years ago, but tenants did not commit.

“Mark and Andy knew of my intention to move my yacht business because I was out of space and wanted better exposure, and the deal just made sense,” Hudson said.

Huizenga, he added, is not involved in the purchase.

The group has begun talks with Broward County about a potential joint venture to develop a parking garage on the property, Ellert said. Northport sits on about four acres of county-owned land.

“We have a belief in the market, and that larger-scale development will come to pass in the Northport vicinity,” Ellert said, adding that Broward County officials remain interested in building a convention hotel adjacent to the county convention center, which in turn is adjacent to Northport.

Broward County Administrator Roger Desjarlais did not return a phone call.

Northport is designated as a development of regional impact, or DRI. Renewed last year, the state-approved development plan expires in 2006.

The property includes development rights for almost 200,000 square feet of office space.

The Martin-Ellert-Hudson group stepped in almost immediately after the last would-be buyer, Harborside Center LLC, canceled its purchase contract earlier this year.

To date, Northport has been on the market for more than three years. Four purchase deals have fallen through and an auction last year not only failed to produce a buyer, but was sharply criticized for how it was conducted.

“My three-year ordeal is coming to an end,” said J. Brett Houston of Resource Real Estate Group Inc. in Miami, Lend Lease’s broker for Northport. “We have finally arrived with a group that has all the pieces and the financial wherewithal to make this happen.”