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The Sky's the Center

Van Trust Real Estate believes its Sky Center One project at Tampa International Airport will fly above new Tampa Bay office competition.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. December 18, 2020
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COURTESY RENDERING — VanTrust Real Estate's nine-story Sky Center One project is being constructed at the Tampa International Airport.
COURTESY RENDERING — VanTrust Real Estate's nine-story Sky Center One project is being constructed at the Tampa International Airport.
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Tampa Bay is poised to receive a slate of new office space next year, projects that will add nearly 1 million square feet to existing inventory.

But of the four new buildings underway, only one will be able to offer direct access to the Tampa International Airport with a host of amenities and open space.

When completed next June, SkyCenter One will contain 270,000 square feet of space in a nine-story building. Of that total, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which operates the 3,300-acre airport, will occupy 110,000 square feet on three floors under a long-term lease.

Another roughly 15,000 square feet will house a new regional office of project developer VanTrust Real Estate LLC; the Tampa operation of commercial real estate brokerage firm Avison Young; and space for contractor J.E. Dunn, which is building SkyCenter One from a HOK design.

“Several types of businesses can benefit from a close proximity to the airport,” says G. John Carey, a VanTrust executive vice president who previously spent more than two decades working in Tampa with developer Trammell Crow Co.

“Tampa International Airport is ground zero for the whole area,” Carey adds. “It’s a central location that makes it, in our view, unbeatable.”

The $122 million SkyCenter One won’t be without stiff competition, however.

Like VanTrust’s project, the first of three office buildings planned at the $500 million Midtown Tampa development, also in Westshore, is scheduled for delivery early next year.

Midtown One, which North Carolina-based Highwoods Properties Inc. is developing for master developer Bromley Cos. at Midtown Tampa site, will contain 140,000 square feet. 

The seven-story building will be part of a 22-acre, mixed-use project that also will contain retailers such as REI Co-Op and Whole Foods Market; a 225-room hotel and 400 apartments.

In North Tampa, meanwhile, a joint venture between SoHo Capital and Atlanta-based TPA Group are nearing completion of a seven-story office building within the 45-acre Tampa Heights property.

The 300,000-square-foot project, which is nearly 30% pre-leased, joins the restored Armature Works mixed-use project and The Pearl Apartments on the property.

In downtown Tampa, Strategic Property Partners is developing a 20-story building at 1001 Water St. that will contain 380,000 square feet of office space when completed next summer.

Each building will be seeking rental rates in excess of $40 per square foot.

To combat the competition, SkyCenter One intends to offer a host of “super-sized” amenities, including a fitness center, conference space and restaurant that together will occupy more than 10,000 square feet on the building’s ground floor.

“With the building’s design, the surrounding infrastructure and the ease of getting to the airport terminal, our reality is better than our renderings,” says Clay Witherspoon, an Avison Young principal and managing director who is leasing SkyCenter One.

An adjacent five-story atrium also will connect the building to a tram that will link directly to the airport terminal. The office building also will have more than 700 dedicated parking spaces for tenants, Carey says.

SkyCenter One also is part of a larger airport master plan aimed at increasing passenger capacity to as many as 34 million travelers annually. In addition to the office building, the area near SkyCenter One will ultimately house a pair of hotels with as many as 350 rooms, together with retail and restaurant space.

In all, the airport authority is spending $2.6 billion to upgrade and add to the regional transportation hub.

And while COVID-19 has made leasing efforts during the construction phase more difficult, Carey believes that SkyCenter One will be well positioned when the pandemic is eventually brought under control.

“As things normalize, I think we’ll see more companies respond by moving from places like the Northeast to suburban Florida markets like Westshore,” Carey says. “Our outlook on new office space here in very positive. The vaccine will be a key milestone; by the latter part of next year we believe office space in Tampa will be a good sector to be in.”

Even further out, Kansas City. Mo.-based VanTrust could develop a second, 150,000-square-foot office building on airport grounds.

For now, though, Carey — who is based in Jacksonville at present — is focusing exclusively on obtaining tenants for SkyCenter One.

“Westshore is one of the best office markets in the state,” he says. “We feel really good about this opportunity.”





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