A $110 million office project at the Tampa International Airport gives new meaning to the term planes and trains and automobiles.
How so? The nine-story tower, dubbed SkyCenter One, will connect to the TIA main terminal via train, the same train that connects travelers to the fast-growing airport’s new rental car center. For practical purposes, an executive with a SkyCenter One tenant can follow this itinerary: get to the office in the morning, catch a train in the same building, take that train to a plane, fly to New York and return the same day, Airport Executive Vice President of Facilities Al Illustrato says.
“It’s the only place in the region, probably the state, where you can get that kind of amenity,” Illustrato says. “It’s pretty unique.”
Illustrato adds he’s led presentations on the SkyCenter One project across the region, for business and civic groups, and train-to-the-plane lands all the buzz. “People tell me all the time tell me ‘I didn’t know the airport could build an office building with a train,’” he says. “People's eyes go wide open.”
‘People tell me all the time tell me ‘I didn’t know the airport could build an office building with a train.' Al Illustrato, Tampa International Airport
The project was announced in April, when the airport chose Kansas City-based VanTrust Real Estate to design, develop and manage the 270,000-square-foot building. Another milestone in the project took place in early November, when officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the office building.
VanTrust Real Estate, which has handled projects in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach within Florida, hired HOK to design the building. Kansas City-based J.E. Dunn, with an office in Tampa, is the lead builder. Expected completion is spring 2021.
For airport operations, SkyCenter One is a significant upgrade. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority will not only take three floors of the building for employees, covering some 112,000 square feet, but the complex will also be the airport’s new nerve center. “Given the critical nature of the work, the building has been hardened against severe weather and is more robust than similar office buildings in the area,” airport officials say in a statement.
That hardening, costing $42 million, will include improvements over the airport’s current, in-terminal office space everywhere from windows and walls to the HVAC and life-safety systems. The building will also feature backup utility lines, including power and data, in addition to a generator backup.
Outside airport operations, officials are confident the building will be a strong draw in Westshore, where office space is in high demand. “This state-of-the-art office building is ideally suited for a wide range of companies seeking a premier location within the Tampa International Airport and easy connectivity to the surrounding metro areas,” VanTrust Executive Vice President for Florida John Carey says in a statement after the Nov. 7 groundbreaking.
SkyCenter One, finally, is one part of a larger project for the airport — recently ranked No. 1 nationally among medium sized airports in a Wall Street Journal reader survey.
That larger project is a $2 billion airport expansion, planned in three phases. SkyCenter One is a core part of the second phase, for both convenience for prospective tenants and in moving pieces of the airport around so it could move more people, faster.
That can happen after the authority takes its three floors of SkyCenter One, departing its in-terminal offices. That, in turn, will allow the airport to make way for expanded curbsides in the space around the former offices. That expansion, airport spokesman Danny Valentine, says will focus on express lanes for passengers who aren’t checking bags.
The end mission — Valentine adds, with this and other phases, including a new terminal with 16 gates for domestic and international flights — is to increase passenger capacity by at least 60%. The airport served a record 21 million passengers in 2018, with its eye on 34 million passengers.
“All these disparate projects,” Valentine says, “are tied together and driven toward the same goal: to serve this rapidly growing community.”