Monday, February 13, 2012

Early signs of recovery for Florida’s construction market?

Well, I’ve been noticing lately that traffic on weekends is getting busier and busier. Although I hate traffic, increased traffic is a sign of economic recovery, so, in this case, I actually like that traffic is increasing. It means that more and more people are out on the weekends …. to go shopping.

Florida’s construction market was hit particularly hard in the recession that “supposedly ended” in June 2009. My guestimate is that A/E/C sector reprographics revenues in the state of Florida are still off around 50% from the peak of construction activity in early 2007. In other words, Reprographers in the state of Florida, collectively, got hit not just hard, but kind of like with a sledgehammer.

This weekend’s major newspaper carried two articles about the possible revival of two major real estate development projects, a major office tower in downtown Tampa and a major regional mall in Sarasota. If these projects actually get going, that will be huge for the Florida A/E/C sector and for Reprographers as well. Reprographers, it’s time to make at least two sales calls:

Article from the Tampa Bay Times, February 10, 2012

Stalled Taubman mall plan (Sarasota FL) may be revived.

Taubman Centers Inc. CEO Robert Taubman said his company is "very close" to breathing life back into a stalled upscale regional mall project in Sarasota. The land was cleared for University Town Center, a 1-million square foot enclosed regional mall that would be across Interstate-75 from Lakewood Ranch, before the project was sidelined by the recession. Now Taubman is confident enough to budget starting construction in the second half of this year and opening in a 2014. It's a joint venture with Benderson Development on 73 acres of Benderson's 276-acre mixed-use project. Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy's once signed up to be in the mall, but it's unclear how much of the anchor store lineup remains. Developers recently pitched the project to Saks Fifth Avenue, which has another store in Sarasota. Dillard's also has closed two of its stores in nearby malls in recent years. Taubman owns controlling interest in International Plaza in Tampa and three other Florida malls.

Times staff

Article from the Tampa Bay Times, February 12, 2012

Signs of a recovering Tampa Bay economy are multiplying; Southgate high-rise Office Tower Project may be back on track.

It's a powerful symbol of "rising" downtown confidence. SouthGate, the first new office tower to be built in downtown Tampa in nearly 15 years, is back on track. The man behind the project is Bob Abberger, managing director of real estate firm Trammell Crow Co. He envisions up to a 20-story tower, an adjacent 350-room upscale hotel and a parking garage. It would rise across from the University of South Florida's soon-to-debut Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, or CAMLS, not far from Channelside. The fit is a natural. Abberger anticipates plenty of potential customers: physicians and their surgical teams flying into Tampa to be trained in the latest robotic surgery techniques.

Rezoning was completed in December in a 7-0 vote with no comments from the City Council. Says Abberger, 56: "We are proceeding with site plan approval, announcing our marketing team and advancing discussions with tenants." Likely completion: early 2014.

Article that appeared (about this same project) on, August 18, 2011

Downtown Tampa will get its first major office tower in years if a developer can pull off his plan for a 20-story, energy-efficient office building and upscale hotel.

Bob Abberger, managing director of real estate firm Trammell Crow Co., expects to file a rezoning application with Tampa Friday for a new project tentatively called Southgate. The project would include the main office tower, an adjacent 350-room upscale hotel and a parking garage, Abberger said Thursday.

Trammell Crow will be taking a $250-million risk in a down economy. Vacancy rates downtown are around 20 percent right now, although they're lower at prestigious "Class A" office buildings, he said.

Plus, Abberger will have to find some tenants willing to lease space in advance, because investors who are backing the project will want Trammell Crow to have tenants lined up before starting construction.

But the company believes in downtown Tampa's long-term future, especially with a new mayor and the new ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he said. He hopes to complete the hotel and office building some time in 2014.

"All things being equal, when you talk to most (corporate) users, they'd rather be downtown," he said.

The Southgate project would be bordered by Whiting, Morgan and Brorein streets and by Florida Avenue. It would be directly across from the University of South Florida's new Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, or CAMLS.

In fact, Trammell Crow is betting that the physicians who fly into Tampa to learn about the latest in medical technology at CAMLS will want to stay at the Southgate project's new hotel. He is looking for a hotel brand to partner with, he said.

At 20 stories, the project's tower won't be nearly as tall as some of downtown's other office buildings, which run up to 40 stories. However, its 450,000 square feet of space will be comparable to other downtown towers because of its wider base, or "footprint."

Southgate's tower would have a footprint of about 28,000 square feet, where most downtown towers have footprints of 18,000 to 20,000, Abberger said. Trammell Crow will seek a LEED certification for energy efficiency for the building, he said.

The office tower essentially is the same project that Trammell Crow wanted to build four years ago in Tampa's Channel District before the real estate market collapsed. However, the new location is closer to downtown's core urban area and should capitalize on its proximity to the Tampa Convention Center, he said.

Trammell Crow has a contract to buy the property from the landholding Collier family, for whom Collier County is named.

Larry Richey, senior managing director for the Cushman & Wakefield real estate firm in Tampa, said timing will be crucial for the project.

At the moment, downtown Tampa can't handle another office tower. But the location across from the future CAMLS research center is ideal, Richey said, and downtown eventually might need the extra office space.

The hotel seems less risky than the office tower, he said.

"Certainly given the expectations of the CAMLS project, the hotel portion of that plan would seem to make a lot of sense," Richey said.

Update: pulled from a story in the Tampa Bay Times (article appeared on Monday, Feb 13th):

Developers broke ground Monday on a $55 million apartment complex in the Channel District. Within 18 months, the complex is expected to open with 356 apartments and 4,800 square feet of stores in four buildings.

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