- March 25, 2011
Law firm moving, expanding
One of the area's largest real estate law firms is expanding its headquarters and moving out of downtown Sarasota to offices near Westfield Corp.'s Southgate Mall.
Berlin Patten Ebling intends to shift offices from the City Centre building downtown to 3700 S. Tamiami Trail later this month. The firm has been located at 1819 Main St. since its inception.
“We've been experiencing tremendous growth, and we wanted to create a nice space to accommodate that and still have room for the future,” says Evan Berlin, the firm's co-founding partner.
A partnership created by the firm acquired the two-story office building for $2.93 million in March, according to property records. Built in 1995, it contains 15,000 square feet in all.
Berlin says the firm, which now occupies 5,500 square feet at City Centre, plans to move into 7,500 square feet.
Berlin Patten was formed in 2009 with five attorneys, including Ritz-Carlton Sarasota counsel Brenda Patten. Today, the practice has eight lawyers, and it closed nearly $14 million in transactions in March alone — Berlin Patten also operates offices in Lakewood Ranch and Venice.
Tampa Bay rents edging up
Office tenants in Tampa Bay's premier towers are paying more effective rent than in 2007, the peak of the market nearly a decade ago.
Brokerage firm Savills Studley's annual “Effective Rent Index” for Tampa found tenants are paying $22.03 per square foot, up 5% from a year ago and more than the $21.92 paid in 2007. Gross rent also hit a new high of $28 per square foot, up 2.8% from a year ago.
For the balance of this year, Savills expects landlord optimism to fuel an additional bump of roughly 7%.
Tenant effective rent — defined as gross rent minus operating expenses and taxes and inclusive of tenant improvements allowances and any free rent concessions — has risen 22.6% since 2004, Savills notes. Landlord effective rent, meanwhile — gross rent minus operating expenses and commissions — has risen even faster, by 36.7% over the same period. Last year, it rose by 10.1%.
Cheri O'Neil, a Savills Studley senior vice president and its Tampa branch manager, says as a result conditions are becoming more favorable for new office development.
Still, Tampa remains a bargain. The U.S. average tenant effective rent last year was $33.22 per square foot.