MetLife's Tampa office park will house the area's first new office building with speculative space since 2012. A PwC expansion is making it happen.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. has begun constructing the final office building in its 32-acre MetWest International corporate park in the Westshore area of Tampa, bringing full circle an investment the giant insurer made three decades ago.
The 10-story building, which will be anchored by consulting and accounting firm PwC, represents one of the first new office buildings to be built in the Tampa area since 2012.
Even more significantly, the building will be the first in the wake of last decade's economic recession to contain any substantive speculative, uncommitted office space — an inclusion that will test the market's strength amid robust absorption and a dearth of new construction.
“It's a good time to build an office building,” says Hank Brenner, managing principal of investment services for commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield, which will be overseeing development of MetWest Three for MetLife.
“The occupancy for the other offices in the park is currently 99%, and overall the Westshore submarket is very strong and the economy remains strong, so all the fundamentals support this.”
Brenner adds that positive absorption in the Tampa office market in the years since the recession ended officially in 2011 also bodes well for the project and the 100,000 square feet being developed speculatively in MetWest Three.
PwC will anchor the new building -- being constructed by Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors from tvsdesign architectural drawings — by leasing 150,000 square feet of space through at least 2032. As part of its commitment, the company intends to add at least 350 new workers to its Tampa-area employee roster after MetWest Three is completed in November 2019.
In all, PwC currently employs 3,000 in Tampa, says Chris Sedlak, a company spokesman.
“We're making a major investment in people here,” says Joe Killian, PwC's U.S. finance leader and a firm managing partner. “We're very optimistic about our long-term prospects in this region.”
PwC already occupies the entire 250,000-square-foot MetWest Two office building in the park.
Killian says the company began consolidating so-called “shared services” operations in the 1990s, which led it to establish a base in Tampa.
“What a centralized focus has done for us is it's helped us to find efficiencies we didn't know existed,” Killian says. “This new project is part of that. We're always looking for ways to provide more value for our clients, and this building will certainly continue to allow us to do that.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says the investment by PwC and MetLife would spur other corporate relocations and expansions in the area.
“The momentum and swagger around Tampa now hasn't been seen in decades,” Buckhorn says. “I believe that within five years Tampa will be the economic engine that drives growth in the entire Southeast United States.”
Brenner agrees that Tampa's momentum should help Cushman & Wakefield lease the uncommitted space in the new 4050 Boy Scout Blvd. building.
“From what we understand, there are so many tenants out looking for space at present that we're optimistic we'll be able to fill the building,” he says.
Angela Odell, a Cushman & Wakefield senior director who also is working on MetWest Three, adds there are few large, contiguous Class A office spaces available in either Westshore or downtown Tampa.
“No one else will be building over the course of the next six to 12 months,” she says. “And in existing spaces, the largest block is about 40,000 square feet in Westshore, and it's only 25,000 square feet when you're looking at contiguous space.”
Odell adds that office space in Westshore, the state's largest business district in terms of space, is 93% occupied. The district's Class A vacancy is even tighter, at 96%.
The other two MetWest office buildings, at 99% committed, are occupied by Atkins, Humana, Marcus & Millichap and Principal Life, among others.
And while MetWest Three will be the final office building slated for the park, the land for which MetLife bought in the 1980s, it won't be the final development there.
MetLife has eventual plans to build more than 250 rental apartments and 28,000 square feet of additional retail space, which will join restaurants Del Frisco's Grille, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Kona Grill and Texas de Brazil, among other eateries.
MetWest International also is home to a new AC Hotel by Marriott, which debuted in late January.