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Tampa apartment tower could change downtown dynamic for renters

The AER building in the heart of Tampa's art district allows renters to get a piece of the city at the same level as million-dollar condo buyers.

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 5:00 a.m. March 20, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Kelsey Harbin, the property manager at AER, a new 31-story tower going up in Tampa's art district, shows what the lobby will eventually look like.
Kelsey Harbin, the property manager at AER, a new 31-story tower going up in Tampa's art district, shows what the lobby will eventually look like.
Photo by Louis Llovio
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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With just a few months to go before residents begin moving in, the owners of the AER building in downtown Tampa allowed some visitors to tour the site early March.

The 31-story tower remains essentially a construction site with about 200 people currently working on it, but it is starting to take shape inside and out. Like most tours, the idea was to create buzz around the project

But here’s the thing: there was already buzz.

The AER (Arts and Entertainment Residences) building is one of several luxury towers going up in Tampa. What’s different about it, and what’s drawing attention, is unlike many of the million-dollar condos in the area, this building is for renters.

Kelsey Harbin, the property manager at AER, a new 31-story tower going up in Tampa's art district.
Photo by Mark Wemple

The idea is that a downtown renter will get the same type of high-end — and high-dollar — amenities usually reserved for someone buying a unit.

At 300 W. Tyler Ave., the 334-unit high rise is going up in the heart of the city’s River Arts District and is within in walking distance of Tampa Riverwalk, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children’s Museum. And for theater lovers, the lobby exits directly onto the Straz Center for the Performing Arts’ front doors.

On the other two sides of the building — and its 514-space parking garage — are the Hillsborough River and the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative’s downtown branch.

The ground floor of the building will include a two-story lobby entrance facing the river and the University of Tampa across it, as well as 13,688 square feet of retail space.

Kelsey Harbin, the property manager, says tenants have already been found for the commercial space she but cannot yet disclose who they are.

For those working from home, there will be a co-working space with glassed-in offices, kitchen and a podcast studio.

Among the amenities likely to garner more attention are a rooftop pool and tree-lined deck on the 11th floor atop the garage and overlooking much of downtown and the city. 

But that is dwarfed by the views 20 floors up on a 31st floor terrace. Standing on the terrace, one can see the entirety of the bay to the west, from the university down below to Tropicana Field to the south. Planes fly into Tampa International Airport six miles away below you.

What the view from the 31st floor of AER will look like.
Courtesy image

“You get your premium Tampa Bay views,” says Harbin. “It’s a pretty nice day today and we are looking all the way out to St. Pete.”

The terrace, which will include all the extras, has a full gym — complete with saunas and a yoga studio — off to the side and, while closed off, similar views.

Harbin and Scott Baker, Coastal Construction’s senior superintendent on the project, say floors three to 11 will be the first to open to residents in the next few months and the remainder of the building should follow a couple of months after that.

“But it could happen quicker,” says Baker.

Leasing is opening up in late March and an “interest list” has already been created.

One-bedroom units will range from 770 square feet to 852 square feet; two-bedrooms from between 1,287 square feet and 1,481 square feet; and three-bedrooms will be 1,636 square feet.

Prices aren’t posted on the website, Harbin, though, says during the tour that a three bedroom on one of the top floors will likely run at about $7,000 per month.

But one of the most interesting things about AER is not in any of the literature handed out or on the website: How it came to be.

The AER building is a new 31-story tower going up in Tampa's art district.
Photo by Mark Wemple

This is a project championed by former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn when he was in office. He saw the project as indicative of the future of Tampa when Water Street Tampa was just an idea.

At the 2022 groundbreaking, Buckhorn said he tried to sell the idea of moving a few blocks around and taking the back half of the library to create a usable block to fit the building on 1.014 acres. But he was met with blank stares “as if we had 12 heads.”

But that’s what happened.

The tower is going up where West Tyler once reached an apex, meeting up with other city streets. The city was able to take down an unused portion of the library and move the road in order to create both a better traffic flow and a block of land that was unused.

Baker says Buckhorn was still relishing the accomplishment at a ceremony in July to celebrate reaching the top of the building.

“I hung out with him for quite a while at the topping out,” Baker says. “He's a funny guy.”



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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