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Taking shape

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  • | 6:48 p.m. February 10, 2017
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Ahandful of major Gulf Coast commercial real estate projects are benefiting from job growth and population influx, along with demographic shifts, socio-economic trends and technological gains.
From Strategic Property Partners' $3.5 billion plan to enhance downtown Tampa to Benderson Development Co.'s more than $1 billion University Town Center project, the region will ultimately be home to millions of square feet of new commercial space.

Meanwhile, residential-dominant developments such as Newland Communities' Bexley community and West River, a joint venture between the Related Group and the Tampa Housing Authority, will transform the area with tens of thousands of new housing units across multiple price points.

“We're very bullish on the next five years,” says Todd Mathes, director of development at Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co., which is in the final phase of adding retail space to the 3 million square feet that exists at its University Town Center project, which straddles Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“People aged 65 and older have been coming to the area for several years now, and they're still coming,” Mathes told an audience of 400 in Tampa who gathered for an Urban Land Institute 2017 Trends conference.

Mathes adds that Benderson plans to augment the UTC retail space with roughly 1,700 residences and some 200,000 square feet of office space in the coming years.

Likewise, officials from Newland, Kolter Group and The Related Group say a greater number of area household formations combined with the relative affordability of the Gulf Coast should sustain real estate development for the foreseeable future.

Mitch Roschelle, the U.S. national real estate advisory practice leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the group at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC that while Tampa residents devote 30% of their incomes to housing, on a median basis, people living in Los Angeles spend 63.6% of their paychecks to pay for where they live.

That's good news for large-scale developments like the Channelside district, where Strategic Property Partners— a joint venture between Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates' Cascade Investment LLC and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik — plans an ambitious development that will add 9.5 million square feet of space on 53 acres.

As part of the overall project, SPP intends to develop 650 new hotel rooms and upgrade the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina; up to 3.1 million square feet of commercial and retail space; roughly 5,000 residential units; and about 1 million square feet of office space, including the USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Health Institute.

The new space will be interspersed around the Tampa Convention Center, Amalie Arena, the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Riverwalk.

SPP is installing $35 million worth of required infrastructure for the project, which began last August. Although the overall project will be built in phases through 2026, about half of the new space is slated to come online by 2020 to create a critical mass.

“We've got quite a lot going on, but we're making a lot of progress,” Bryan Moll, a SPP executive vice president and one of two directors of development, told the ULI conference.

Moll, who joined the company last October, says 14 architectural teams are working to design 23 buildings.

“We're in the midst of a very concentrated effort to hire the right teams for each of these projects,” he says. “One of the primary challenges for us is to create a neighborhood that is all things to everyone.”
SPP's goal, for instance, is to build a walkable community and one that promotes wellness and environmental sustainability while remaining economically viable and architecturally significant.

Among the first buildings that will go vertical in Channelside is the $152.6 million USF Morsani College building. Construction at South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive is scheduled to begin in August.

When completed in late 2019, the building will house nearly 2,300 University of South Florida faculty, staff and students.


SPP isn't the only significant urban project gelling along the Gulf Coast, of course.

Kolter is constructing its 41-story One St. Petersburg mixed-use tower in downtown St. Petersburg, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2018.

The building, which will contain a 175-room hotel and 253 upscale condominiums, has to date sold 70% of its units, says Kolter executive Brian Van Slyke.

Like SPP, the company is hoping to leverage the trend toward re-urbanization that is prompting people to flock to U.S. cities.

“St. Petersburg is very walkable, very livable,” Van Slyke says. “We're finding more people want that lifestyle.”

To lure buyers, Kolter is installing a one-acre amenity floor in One, which will contain outdoor kitchens, a swimming pool, spa and yoga areas. It is also designing units with more open floor plans with great rooms, and three quarters of all One units will have a water view.

To date, the average age of buyers has been about 55 years old, with 75% of buyers saying the tower will become their primary residence.

Back in Tampa, Related and the Tampa Housing Authority intend to transform 700 public housing units and surrounding land into an art-centric, mixed-income community.

The 100-acre West River project, when completed, will be the biggest redevelopment effort in the history of Tampa and be anchored by the 23-acre Riverfront Park.

Newland Communities, by contrast, plans to incorporate nature into its Bexley community in the Tampa suburbs to draw millennial buyers and retiring baby boomers.

Most notably, it's putting a bicycle trail system and related amenities like a bike shop and cafe in the community to enhance connectivity and the connection to nature.

In all, Bexley is expected to contain 11,000 residences at build out and 600,000 square feet of commercial space.

“Baby boomers and millennials, we're finding, actually have a lot of similarities when it comes to the kinds of amenities they desire,” says Alex McLeod, a Newland senior vice president and division manager.

But Taylor Ralph, president of Real Building Consultants, sees an even greater link threading through each of the five projects.

“People want to be nearer to the things they feel they need,” he says, “and the places they consider to be important.”

— K.L. McQuaid


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