C. F. Smith Property Group

From left, Barry Embler, Neil Robinette, Claudia Robinette, Kenneth Robinette and Steve Trythall of C.F. Smith Property Group, at their renovated historic bank property at 132 NW Broad St. in downtown Southern Pines. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

You may not recognize the name, but for 55 years Tri-City, Inc. has been one of the region’s most prolific real estate developers and commercial property owners.

From the Pinecroft Plaza in Taylortown, to historic building renovations in downtown Southern Pines and the Pinehurst National No. 9 golf club and community, this Rockingham-based company has built a solid foundation in Moore County.

In mid-January, the business officially changed its name to C.F. Smith Property Group, a move made in honor of its late founder and patriarch, Claude Felton Smith, Jr.

“This is an effort to better tell who we are and our history,” said Neil Robinette, C.F. Smith’s CEO, in explaining the revamp began with an update to the company’s website. “As we got into that discussion, we opened it up a little further. We know that we have a rich history and cool story to tell that is fascinating, and we wanted to do a better job of conveying that.”

Claude Felton Smith, Jr. was an entrepreneur first in farming, then he evolved into manufacturing, and eventually in commercial real estate where he made his mark as a pioneer in the industry. Smith had a knack for being ahead of the curve as it related to locating property, identifying growth industries, and was well known as an expert financier.

Today, the private family-run enterprise he founded manages 100 percent of its diverse portfolio, and specializes in single-tenant build-to-suit projects and the redevelopment of distressed properties. The company’s holdings extend to 23 states, with a combined span of 10 million square feet of commercial space, including over 9,000 acres in three residential and golf resort communities.

Robinette said his grandfather’s real estate development interests began in the 1960s, “when shopping centers were coming of age.”

Another significant milestone was development of the 600-acre Pinehurst National Golf Club, a private gated community that is now renamed as Pinehurst National No. 9, in the 1980s, and Lowe’s Home Improvement on U.S. 15-501 in the 2000s.

“We look for good real estate in growth markets that have good potential for long term success,” Robinette said. “We are traditionally long-term holders of our assets.”

The decision to rebrand under Smith’s name is part of the company’s effort to improve its visibility within the communities where they are well-established.

“We wanted our name to be more telling about what we do, and to pay homage to Claude and what he built,” Robinette said. “We wanted it to be a great name to carry ourselves forward to the future and to help us tell our story.”

Steve Trythall, C.F. Smith’s director of leasing development said in today’s marketplace, a company needs to be visible.

“The more you learn about the history, you understand the past has been great and the future holds a lot of opportunity for success. Having our brand recognition is important,” he said.

In particular, brick and mortar retailers have been impacted by the shift to online shopping. For a company that focuses heavily on shopping center investments, Trythall said the goal is to cultivate a mix of tenants that will complement each other.

“We are careful about our diversity and product types, and constantly try to monitor that,” he added. “There is demand for brick and mortar space and a lot of growth in experience-driven retail and entertainment venues. People are coming to shopping centers for an experience, not necessarily just goods or things.”

In addition there has been a strong emergence of what Trythall calls “medical retail,” like the FirstHealth Convenient Care clinic in the Pinecroft Plaza shopping center, and fitness gyms that are filling in some retail gaps.

“They can take advantage of the exposure to clients in traditional retail sites. That has been a growth avenue for us and one that we hope to continue,” Trythall said.

Find more information about C.F Smith Property Group commercial space availability online at https://cfsmithpg.com/

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