Midtown Tampa about to blossom

by: Kevin McQuaid | Commercial Real Estate Editor

After years of planning and construction, the $500 million Midtown Tampa project is like a flower about to bloom.

The 22-acre project’s infrastructure, featuring an extensive lake, a park and  landscaping, are in place. A 225-room dual-flagged hotel — with the Aloft and Element brands — is open, as is the rooftop bar that they share.

The first of 220,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, led by outdoor superstore REI Co-Op., has had its lights on and doors open since March 5.

Units in Novel Midtown Tampa, a 390-door apartment complex, are being offered for lease, and a pair of office buildings are being marketed to businesses.

“When you walk through the project now, it’s pretty amazing the way it’s coming together,” says Kathy Hackshaw, Midtown Tampa’s general manager. “It’s happening just as they said it would, just as was envisioned. It’s truly a city within a city here.”

For master developer Bromley Cos., of New York, the delivery of the 1.8 million-square-foot project caps a 23-year odyssey of owning property that even the company principals acknowledge was once a “forgotten land” at Interstate 275 and Dale N. Mabry Highway.

In the coming weeks, Midtown Drive, which will serve as the development’s Main Street, will debut. In May, Shake Shack will become the first of a handful of restaurants to premier, with others scheduled to come online through August.

In June, Whole Foods Market will open, in advance of live music in Midtown Tampa’s common area starting a month later.

Hackshaw anticipates that that the entire project will be up and running sometime in the Fall.

Perhaps most surprising is how the retail space, being leased by Lakewood Ranch-based Casto Southeast Realty Services and Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., has performed amid the pandemic.

Nearly 90% of the Midtown Tampa retail space has been committed, to a host of tenants including REI and Whole Foods, True Kitchen, Ponte Restaurant Group, Ryde It and others.

Hackshaw says the occupancy at the dual-branded hotel, which was developed by Concord Hospitality Enterprises and opened in time for Super Bowl LV, in Tampa, has been better than anticipated amid COVID-19, especially on the weekends.

Crescent Communities’ Novel Midtown Tampa is now offering hard hat tours to prospective tenants. About one-third of the interiors are complete, and the company anticipates move-ins to start in about a month.

Units in the five-story above retail complex, where rents range from $1,600 monthly to $4,473 per month, are complimented by amenities such as a resort-style swimming pool and a fitness center with free weights, CrossFit equipment, yoga studio and a spin room.

“Midtown Tampa is a central location in Westshore, the largest business district in Florida,” says Tim Graff, managing director of Crescent’s Florida multifamily operations.

“What Bromley has done is place-making. The property’s access to I-275 is fantastic, and the mix of activity they’ve developed and put together is impressive. And anytime you can build an apartment community next to a Whole Foods Market, we think that’s great.”

The only component of Midtown Tampa that has yet to fully gel is the project’s office space. That sector has been especially hard hit in the Tampa area and nationwide as tenants grapple with how — and when — to abandon pandemic-inspired work-from-home strategies and return to physical offices.

Throughout the health crisis, many white-collar and professional businesses have put expansion and relocation plans on hold as they wait for widespread vaccinations to take root.

To date, developer Highwoods Properties has signed just a single lease for the seven-story, 140,000-square-foot Midtown One office development. Winter Park-based South State Bank is currently doing tenant improvement work on its 10,000 square feet of space.

Hackshaw says several leases are currently out for signature that would bolster that occupancy, but she declined to name any of the prospective tenants.

In all, Highwoods is scheduled to develop a trio of office towers at Midtown Tampa containing 750,000 square feet of space.

Additionally, Bromley has developed a three-story office project known as The Loft, with 70,000 square feet. It, too, is nearing completion.

Hackshaw says she expects leasing activity to pick up as more businesses open and because virus-proofing new space is easier than retrofitting existing offices.

“The magnitude of this project is one of the things that differentiates it,” Graff says. “We’ve done mixed-use projects before, but this is a whole other level. “Frankly, it’s been very impressive to watch it come out of the ground and come together.”