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NAIOP: Real estate investors still looking to Tampa Bay

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Tampa Bay Business Journal by Carl Cronan Date: Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Tampa Bay area remains a strong contender for commercial real estate investment in practically every sector, industry executives said Wednesday during the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties annual broker update. Nearly 200 people attended the lunchtime event at the Marriott Westshore Hotel in Tampa.

“The investment market is still very healthy in Tampa,” said Steve Ekovich, first vice president and regional manager of Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co. He noted that national and European real estate investors remain interested in the Bay area despite its overall standing as a second-tier market, and record prices paid for local properties are encouraging owners to put their buildings and land up for sale lately.

Residential growth in the Bay area is driving the market for land sales throughout the Bay area, increasing the competition among homebuilders and commercial developers to secure suitable sites, according to Bill Eshenbaugh, president of Eshenbaugh Land Co. He identified the Suncoast Parkway, south Hillsborough County and southern Hernando County as the most active areas for land sales, with prices rising from $5,000 an acre in 1996 to more than $20,000 now.

Eshenbaugh noted that condominium construction and conversion are also driving demand lately, making sites scarce for office and industrial development.

“There used to be a time when you couldn’t even get financing for these projects,” he said.

Office leasing remains a strong prospect for the Bay area, with overall vacancy declining to 17.2 percent through the first half of 2004, said Larry Richey, senior managing director with Cushman & Wakefield of Florida. He told brokers that as many as 1.6 million square feet of office space is being sought in the market now, in sizes ranging between 15,000 and 200,000 square feet.

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