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Ocean Drive retail building sells for $3.2 million

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS, (Week of May 31, 2012)
Photo: The 8,200-square-foot retail building at 3115-3127 Ocean Dr. sold on May 23 for $3.2 million to an investor from Champaign, Illinois.

A landmark central beach building that had been on the market since 2007 sold last week for $3.2 million.

“The seller was Ellen Green, granddaughter of the individual who originally built the building,” says Treasure Coast Sotheby’s Broker Michael Thorpe who, with his partner Kimberly Hardin represented both the buyer and the seller in the transaction.

The buyer was Jeffery Wampler, a business and real estate attorney and investor from Champaign, Illinois who has been spending time in Vero Beach each winter since he was a small child.

A partner with the law firm of Erwin Martinkus and Cole in Illinois, Wampler works with clients who require legal services related to commercial real estate as a potential investment. He also buys and manages apartment buildings and other commercial properties.

It is probably a good sign for the Vero Beach commercial real estate market when an experienced and well-informed investor like Wampler decides it is time to buy.

“The commercial market is obviously getting stronger,” says Thorpe. “Mr. Wampler thinks it has bottomed out. He also appreciates the fact that there is little vacancy in the building. A property like that with good strong rental income is an attractive investment compared to a volatile stock market. It is also a good hedge against inflation.”

“There are six superstar tenants,” says Wampler.  “I spoke with all of them before I bought the property and they are all incredibly committed to their businesses and to Vero. There are no corporate franchises in there. Every tenant is an owner who is putting their key in the door each morning.

“I told my kids that if they are liquidating things at some point, this is the building they don’t want to sell. This is one they should hang onto.”

“The Green family owned and operated the building since it was built and the new owner plans on keeping it for generations, too,” Thorpe says.

The 8,200-square-foot building is located at 3115-3127 Ocean Dr. across from the Driftwood Inn. It houses The Lemon Tree restaurant, Penelope’s, The Vero beach winery and other shops.

Built in 1956, when the population of Indian River County was around 20,000 and development on the island was sparse, the building was put on the market in 2007 for $5.2 million, later reduced to $4.125 million. The most recent asking price was $3.975 million.  

“I have been working on this for a long time,” says Wampler. “I made my first offer five years ago.”

Wampler and his family own a home in Sea Oaks. He says they don’t get to Vero as often as they would like but that they “never miss a Christmas.”

“I am 51 now and I have been coming to Vero Beach since I was seven or eight. In the future I hope to be able to spend three or four months a year there. It is a beautiful, charming town and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to purchase that building in that location, which I think is one of the very best in Vero Beach.”