Did You Hear? Haines Keeps Huge Tampa Project on Schedule Despite Coronavirus Slowdown

By Tony Wilbert
CoStar News

Nick Haines, CEO of New York-based development firm Bromley Cos., was overseeing one of the largest mixed-use developments underway in Florida and racing the clock to deliver critical pieces of it in time for one of the city’s biggest events when the coronavirus pandemic disrupted business across the country.

But with an approaching deadline of late January to complete a large portion of the first phase of Midtown Tampa in central Florida, Haines had no choice but to make sure construction on 11 buildings continued at full speed. He has a deadline to ensure some of the hotel rooms, apartments, retail shops and big boxes rising on 22 acres along North Dale Mabry Highway at Interstate 275 are open before Feb. 7, 2021, when Tampa is scheduled to host Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium a half-mile away.

“We almost haven’t missed a beat from a construction standpoint,” Haines said in an interview. “There’s a lot of teamwork that has to happen with that to be successful, even in the best of times. Everyone has banded together.”

The coronavirus pandemic that has prompted stay-at-home orders and thrown a wrench into supply chains across the nation could have pushed back construction at Midtown Tampa, but thanks to the industry being deemed essential and a set of rigorous guidelines to ensure on-site worker safety, the project remains on track to open its first components a week or two before kickoff.

“We’re continuing to meet our huge milestones,” Haines said.

So far, Midtown Tampa has landed several retailers and restaurants, including Whole Foods Market, Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Co. and local favorite BellaBrava: New World Trattoria. Shake Shack, True Food Kitchen and REI Co-Op have signed on to open their first locations in the Tampa Bay area at the project when it delivers. Cincinnati-based Jeffrey R. Anderson and Casto Southeast Realty Services are co-developers of the retail space at Midtown Tampa.

On March 15, days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, construction workers at Midtown Tampa topped out Midtown One, the 151,845-square-foot speculative office building at the project. Bromley is developing the $72 million office building in partnership with Raleigh, North Carolina-based real estate investment trust Highwoods Properties, one of the largest office owners in the Tampa Bay market.

Eleven days later, on March 26, another crew topped out the building that will house Element and Aloft by Marriott one of the first dual-branded hotel properties in the area. Bromley is developing the hospitality property with Concord Hospitality. Not too far away, workers moved forward to ensure they could turn over the shell that Whole Foods plans to begin building out in July. The other retail spots are set to be delivered to tenants from October to December, Haines said.

Haines said he expects development partner Crescent Communities to deliver the first apartments at Novel Midtown in Midtown Tampa by late December or early January.

Construction continues at the Midtown Tampa mixed-use development. (Courtesy of Bromley Cos.)

For Haines and Bromley Cos., which his father and company Chairman William Haines founded in 1972, Midtown Tampa is the culmination of more than two decades in the Florida market. The company bought a 60,000-square-foot office building at the site 20 years ago. Bromley had trouble leasing the property because prospective tenants did not like the “junky buildings” surrounding Bromley’s property, Haines said.

So Bromley Cos., named for the Bromley Hall student housing building at the University of Illinois, the first property the firm acquired 40 years ago and still owns today, began to buy the neighboring properties and ended up assembling a 20-acre site that would become the location of Midtown Tampa.

“It was a defensive plan to lease the office building,” Nick Haines said. That first building Bromley acquired has been razed to make way for Tampa Bay’s first REI Co-Op sporting goods store and the Midtown One office building.

Haines said that Bromley considered several uses including big box retail and as much as 900,000 square feet of office space for the Midtown Tampa property in the past. Bromley owned the property through the dot-com bust of 2001 and the Great Recession. After that, the company started to take a fresh look at the property, Haines said.

“Tampa was a city building an incredible momentum,” Haines said. One thing the city needed, he said, was an urban and vertical mixed-use development, especially with new residences and experiential retail and other uses.

Haines said he does not expect that to change because of the current health crisis, which, like other economic setbacks, will eventually end, allowing business to rebound.

“There’s nowhere else in the entire 3 million person Tampa area where you can live and walk downstairs and have a Whole Foods, Shake Shack, fitness center, restaurants and bars within 50 feet of your front door,” he said. “It will be an experience in which a lot of people will partake.”

As for Super Bowl weekend 2021, Haines, a New York City resident who vacationed at nearby St. Pete Beach, Florida, as a kid, said he’ll be “hammering one last plank” at the project if needed to ensure it opens in time for the big game. Better yet, maybe the hometown Buccaneers and their new superstar quarterback will win it, he said.

“Hopefully Tom Brady will be there leading the team to a storybook ending,” Haines said.