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Tampa Bay Area
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 1 year ago

Preparing to Launch

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Feldman Equities says the concept for its 52-story tower in Tampa will be like 'a sailboat moving down the river.'
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Three years after initially unveiling plans for Tampa's first downtown office tower in a quarter century and its first mixed-use high-rise, developer Feldman Equities is revealing new details about its planned 52-story skyscraper.

The developer and partner Tower Realty Partners, of Orlando, hope to break ground on Riverwalk Place by the end of this year and have portions of the building occupied and its “skin” on in February 2021 — to take advantage of national television coverage of Tampa's next hosting of the NFL Super Bowl.

“We're planning not just to build a building but develop a destination for downtown,” Feldman told the Florida Gulf Coast Association of Realtors at a Jan. 18 luncheon. “We expect that what we're building will be competitive not just with downtown but also with Miami and New York and London. It will be the first of its kind here.”

The “softened triangle”-shaped Riverwalk Place, being designed by architectural firm Gensler, is slated to contain roughly 200,000 square feet of Class A office space and 210 luxury condominiums.

Additionally, Feldman told FGCAR the project will contain as many as five restaurants and a rooftop bar, and have outdoor seating for roughly 200.

To accommodate that number, Feldman and Tower Realty are planning to double the width of the city's Riverwalk that stretches in front of the pair's property.

“Riverwalk connects all the dots downtown,” Feldman says. “Amalie Arena, Curtis Hixon Park, the convention center, the museums, they all operated like islands previously. There was little intra-city traffic. Tampa was never a walkable downtown. But Riverwalk was the city's answer to that.”

With the last section of the Riverwalk put in place more than two years ago, Feldman maintains the city is poised to continue its renaissance — away from an office-dominated environment where workers abandon the urban core at or before sunset.

“Ours will be a 24/7 building,” he says. “Mixed use creates a dynamic of activity.”

Riverwalk Place --┬áthe renderings for which are expected to be unveiled in a few months — also will be in keeping with new luxury apartment projects companies like Miami's Related Group are developing in downtown Tampa, a move aimed at expanding residential growth in the city.

Feldman notes that Tampa's population grew by 33% from 2000 to 2014, and that 10,000 people now live in downtown. He adds, too, that 60,000 people work within 10 blocks of the 1.47-acre site where Riverwalk Place will be constructed.

To augment Riverwalk Place's waterfront, Feldman and Tower Realty plan to develop a marina on the Hillsborough River for condo owners and others, and create a series of “stepdowns” so that pedestrians can have greater access to the water.

At the same time, the duo intends to merge nearby properties into Riverwalk Place to create a 2-acre park.

“We've all heard people say, 'Why can't downtown Tampa be more like St. Petersburg?' It's frustrating. We have potential here, we have a beautiful Riverwalk, but it's not fully activated yet. So we're hoping our building will be the Beach Drive-ification of downtown Tampa,” referring to the wildly popular strip of restaurants, shops and stores lining one of St. Petersburg's primary downtown streets.

Inside Riverwalk Place, Feldman hopes high-speed elevators and “smart” technology to control multiple residential functions through a single app will draw condo buyers, along with unparalleled city and water views.

“You have to have to-die-for views,” says Feldman, whose company and partner paid $12.05 million for the property where Riverwalk Place will be built. “That's what people pay top dollar for, but those are limited to a select number of sites.”

Still, Feldman acknowledges that his project faces significant hurdles. Chief among them is the rent that his office space will seek — above $40 per square foot. Most downtown Tampa Class A office space rents for between $30 and $34 per square foot.

“There's still a price gap that we'll need to get versus today's prices,” he says. “There's still a lot of fear among lenders from the 2006 era, when there was a lot of reckless-abandon lending.”

He notes that despite a single-digit vacancy downtown of roughly 8% for upscale office space, there is only one new building under construction in the market.

“That's unbelievable to me,” Feldman told the FGCAR members.

He also remains convinced that Strategic Property Partners, the Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investments partnership working to revamp a section of downtown Tampa with $3 billion worth of new residences, office and retail space and a University of South Florida medical school, won't pose direct competition.

“We're going for smaller users, which does not mean low credit,” Feldman says. “We're a more boutique play. Our floor plates for the office space are 14,000 square feet. That Vinik-proofs us. They're going after corporate tenants, with larger floor plates.”

He also anticipates that Riverwalk Place, which is slated to be the tallest structure along the Gulf Coast, will have as much of an impact when completed as will Vinik-Cascade's more sprawling Water Street Tampa development.

“We have an opportunity to change the city of Tampa,” Feldman told FGCAR. “We will literally change the face of Tampa with this project.”

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