Article By: Margie Manning
Photo: Cushman & Wakefield
Like many transplants to the St. Petersburg area, Ben Mallah enjoys spending time at John’s Pass, one of the top tourist destinations in Pinellas County.
Now, he has the opportunity to shape a key part of the property into an even more desirable attraction.
Mallah, principal and founder at Equity Management Partners in Largo, purchased the Marina at Johns Pass, a mixed-use waterfront property at the tip of Madeira Beach, for $17.2 million. The property includes a six-story public parking garage, Hubbard’s Marina, the Friendly Fisherman, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Hooter’s, as well as about 20 retail shops on the boardwalk.
The property has been on the market for more than a year, as the St. Pete Catalyst previously reported. Mallah said he’s been working on the deal for much of that time, negotiating with a lender who previously foreclosed on the property. Life for Sale, a YouTube video documentary series produced by Danny Jones, founder of Koncrete, featured one of Mallah’s visits to John’s Pass in May 2018.
When the property went on the auction site Ten-X, Mallah was the successful bidder.
“It’s a great property. It just needs some TLC and some hands-on ownership and management,” Mallah told the St. Pete Catalyst Tuesday. “We’ve got a considerable amount of vacant space there that we need to rent out. The place needs a good cleaning and painting and there’s a long list of repairs that need to be done. We need to work on the marina and get the docks in better shape. We need to work with the tenants and improve the aesthetics of the place, and just get it looking fresh and nice and inviting and make it more desirable to spend time there.”
He also wants to bring in more entertainment options as well as a potential boat trolley.
The new property is a good fit for Equity Management Partners, a family business with holdings that include hotels, apartment buildings and retail. “Our main focus is value add. We like big properties that have been neglected. We come in and put them back into shape they need to be in and make improvements – whether it’s physical or administrative or management.”
Mallah, who grew up in New York City, moved to the St. Pete area in 2003, and has properties all over Florida, including in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Daytona. The company also has done several affordable housing projects.
“We just like to come in, turn properties around, get them stabilized and add value to them.”
He said he “absolutely loves” John’s Pass. “It’s a great place to walk around. It’s a great tourist place, with so many activities and plenty of restaurants … It’s a very unique place.”