Tampa Bay tear-downs: From residential to commercial real estate

Tampa, FL -- Your favorite boutique or neighborhood bar might eventually have a date with the wrecking ball.

With an estimated 50,000 people a year moving to the Tampa Bay area, commercial real estate is seeing a boom. And rather than building something new, developers are increasingly tearing down places that have been around for years. 

It’s the same as the pattern with smaller, older houses - torn down to make way for what some call McMansions.

Commercial real estate is following suit. 

“Real estate market is hot right now,” said Jay Miller, President of J. Squared Developers.

Miller’s business is the same outfit that built Trader Joe's on 4th street in St. Pete, and just tore down an aging strip center on Dale Mabry in South Tampa to make room for a drive-thru Starbucks. 

“A lot of these buildings are what we call obsolete in our industry,” said Miller, “They just don't reflect current needs.”

In just the last few months, the wrecking ball has been working overtime on both sides of the bay.

A parking garage on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg is now home to a new Publix, museum and office space.

In South Tampa, older strip centers have been torn down to make way banks, restaurants, grocery stores and more.

So why tear down existing property instead of just building something new somewhere else? 

Patrick Berman, managing director at Cushman and Wakefield real estate in Tampa, says in the suburbs, they would build new. But Berman says with more people moving closer to downtown, they want more modern, successful retail choices close by. And to make that happen, you have to consider tearing down existing space.

People who live in those booming areas say the vitality is good, but losing some of their favorite little stores and restaurants – isn’t.

 “I like the little mom-and-pop spots, but what can you do?” said Betty Gula, who lives in St. Petersburg and works in South Tampa. “Progress,” she laughed.

Another major issue? With those bigger, more popular commercial spots come more traffic. And city officials concede there is little or no room to widen the roads.

“It's already congested, so it just makes it worse,” said Gail Savage who’s lived in South Tampa 30 years.

Developers say they're working on it.

Berman says with the advent of driverless cars, and more people using services like Lyft and Uber, they project less traffic density in the future.

But they are also doing what they can to ensure ease of access. After all, it doesn't do new retailers any good to build in a spot that their customers can't get to.

In the meantime, the business boom shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

“I mean, the economy’s strong again,” said Miller, “Lenders are more eager to finance real estate than they have been in many years.”


© 2017 WTSP-TV


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