With L3 Technologies’ planned shift of its Commercial Aviation Solutions division to roughly 60,000 square feet in 490 First Ave. South in St. Petersburg, the eight-story building that is also the Tampa Bay Times headquarters occupancy will rise to 90%.
The gain marks a stark turnaround for the 239,000-square-foot building as compared to 2016, when New Jersey-based Denholtz Associates and Tampa’s Convergent Capital Partners acquired it for $19 million.
At the time, the three buildings that were linked to form the unified property — the oldest dates to 1924 — was just 46% occupied.
Though Times Publishing Co., the parent company of the Tampa Bay Times, committed to a 15-year deal for 113,000 square feet, the new owners faced a daunting task of leasing the space.
Convergent Capital and Denholtz then began a two-year renovation effort, investing roughly $13 million to upgrade the building’s roof, glass entry way, security, lobby, lighting and heating and air conditioning systems.
The upgrades paid off. Bank of the Ozarks signed on, followed by Penny Hoarder publisher Taylor Media, which took down nearly 22,700 square feet and pushed occupancy to about 70%.
The renovations were completed last fall, even as investment giant Lincoln Property Co. and Georgia-based Mason Capital Partners were preparing to acquire the building for $39.35 million. That sale closed in mid-December., according to Pinellas County property records.
L3, which develops security and detection systems, will consolidate roughly 200 employees from Sarasota and St. Petersburg into the building’s fifth and six floors later this year.
Its lease is expected to anchor the company, which is in the process of merging with defense contractor Harris Corp., to the downtown St. Petersburg building through at least 2029.
Chris Butler, a managing director of commercial real estate brokerage firm Franklin Street who negotiated the lease on behalf of L3 together with firm Senior Associate Kyle Chalkin and Cresa Partners, says the new space will “create a dynamic new work space” for the company.
“It’s a great deal for the building and for all of downtown St. Petersburg,” says Mercedes Angell, a senior director with commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, who together with associate Lauren Coup represented the new owner in the transaction.
“I think L3 is very excited about the prospect of being downtown, and part of such a walkable city like St. Petersburg.”