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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Friday, Apr. 10, 2020 1 month ago

Back to the Future

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Lincoln Property left Tampa two decades ago, after developing a series of signature buildings. Now, it's back.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Back in the mid-1980s, few developers cast as long a shadow in the Tampa Bay area as Lincoln Property Co.

Through its work on Urban Centre and The Pointe office buildings in the Westshore area and One Harbour Place, on Harbour Island in downtown Tampa, the Dallas-based company affirmed its national reputation as one of the country’s premier development firms.

“They did very significant, quality work on every project they did, and the way they marketed properties was always first class,” says Lee Arnold, executive chairman of Tampa-based commercial real estate brokerage firm Colliers International Florida, who worked with Lincoln Property officials more than three decades ago.

“To have Lincoln Property Co. in our market was big-city confirmation that the Tampa area was progressing,” Arnold adds.

COURTESY PHOTO -- Lincoln Property Co. developed Urban Centre, in the Westshore areqa of Tampa, in the mid-1980s. The property is still considered to be a Class A suburban office project.

But as the decade of roaring Wall Street finance sunset into years of recession, bank REO properties, Resolution Trust Corp. asset sales and ultimately recovery, Lincoln Property shifted its focus eastward to sunnier markets, like Orlando, following other out-of-town entities who largely saw the Tampa Bay region as a back-office market.

Two decades on, though, Lincoln Property is back in Tampa Bay, with a new regional office, a signature asset to market in downtown St. Petersburg, a renewed brokerage operation and an eye toward future acquisitions and development projects.

“Tampa Bay has been recognized as a very desirable place to do business in recent years,” says Jon Slater, Lincoln Property’s senior vice president of brokerage operations and the new head of the company’s Tampa regional office.

“Lincoln in recent years has had acquisition opportunities, but without local personnel, they wouldn’t have gotten the attention they deserve,” says Slater, who began his career with Lincoln Property in the early 1990s as an intern and worked in the company’s then-Tampa office from 1995 to 1998.

The company’s new office, in an eight-story building at 490 First Ave. South in downtown St. Petersburg, changes that dynamic, Slater says.

Lincoln Property and a partner acquired the 239,000-square-foot building last December for $39.35 million, following a $13 million, multiyear renovation by former owners Denholtz Associates and Convergent Capital Partners.

“It’s a springboard for us to further look at the entire West Coast of Florida,” says Slater, 50.

Although the St. Petersburg building is roughly 90% occupied by Tampa Bay Times owner Times Publishing Co., L3 Harris Technologies, Taylor Media and Bank of the Ozarks, among others, Slater says Lincoln Property has the ability to cobble together up to 40,000 square feet of contiguous, Class A office space there.

At this juncture, the new Lincoln Property operation consists of Slater, a building engineer and a property manager. In time, however, Slater aims to grow the brokerage side of the business and expand with further purchases and potentially office, retail or industrial developments.

“It’s more about finding the right opportunities and the right people rather than a number of square feet or people in-house,” he says.

Lincoln’s ability to develop, lease and manage will help it to scale up quickly, Slater says.

“Their greatest strengths are, first and foremost, as a developer, then as an owner and property manager and also in the area of leasing. They complement each other,” he adds. “Lincoln’s talent, their acumen, their strength of leadership in Florida, their integrity and competencies all provide an advantage.

“Also, they’re very nimble. As a privately held company, Lincoln has the ability to act quickly, and the nature of their funding sources reinforces that, and provides the flexibility to move forward where some others might not be able to.”

Lincoln also has a legacy of top-quality projects in the Tampa Bay to point to in coming back to the market after a two-decade hiatus.

The two-building Urban Centre, a nine-story pair of offices constructed beginning in 1984, contains 576,000 square feet and is still regarded as one of the premier Class A buildings in the Westshore area of Tampa.

In 2018, Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association sold it for $143.1 million to Starwood Capital, of Miami, in one of the highest dollar volume sales along the Gulf Coast that year.

On Rocky Point, also in Westshore, Lincoln Property built The Pointe, a 10-story, waterfront office building containing 252,455 square feet, which publicly traded Cousins Properties ultimately acquired.

And in downtown, Lincoln Property in 1985 built One Harbour Place, a nine-story, 195,695-square-foot office building that also has maintained a Class A status despite its age.

“For those of us who have been in the commercial real estate industry since the 1980s, we remember Lincoln Property Co.’s reputation in Tampa as a successful developer and owner with superior commercial brokerage capabilities,” says Nancy Herz, director of leasing for Orlando-based Parkway Investment Properties, which last year acquired a five-building office portfolio in Tampa that included the 20-story WeWork Place, at 501 E. Kennedy Blvd.

After developing a handful of signature properties in the mid- to late-1980s the company uprooted operations and focused on Orlando, where it first built a series of apartments. More recently, the company has completed Church Street Plaza, a 28-story tower with 200,000 square feet of office space and 180 hotel rooms, according to the company’s website.

For Slater, too, Lincoln Property’s return to Tampa Bay provides a homecoming of sorts.

After his years with the company in Tampa, Slater left Lincoln Property in 1999 to work for Altanta-based Carter, which most recently developed the Nine15 Apartments in downtown Tampa and the 180-unit DeSota Apartments in downtown Sarasota.

Five years later, Slater was among a half-dozen brokers who collectively opened the Tampa office of tenant representation firm Julien J. Studley Inc., today Savills Inc. Slater spent the next 15 years working on behalf of companies needing space.

“Because of my time there, one of my passions very much includes working with occupier clients,” Slater says.

Sometime in 2019, Slater says he ”rekindled” ties with Lincoln Property officials who had expressed a renewed interest in the Tampa area, allowing him to come full circle, as well.

“We’ve come back together, the company and I, and it’s allowing me to complete the journey I began all those years ago with them.”

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