Lots of people talk about going green. Not as many make that commitment. "We wanted to walk the walk," says Mark House, managing director of the Beck Group
, an architectural, construction and development company.
When Beck's lease on its regional offices in the West Shore business district in Tampa was set to expire a few years ago, House looked at Tampa's four designated Community Redevelopment Areas
(CRAs) as potential relocation sites for an urban redevelopment project that could foster his goal to go green while contributing to Tampa's urban revival.
After comparing CRAs, the raw beauty of the 48-acre Heights project just north of downtown along the Hillsborough River emerged as the best fit.
"It wasn't like we were pioneers," House says, noting the surrounding Tampa Heights neighborhood is already home to the Tampa campus of the Stetson University College of Law
, the Hillsborough County Bar Association
's headquarters and nonprofit foundation, and the Bush Ross
While a new regional office building was being designed and built, Beck employees moved into temporary, portable office space in an effort to showcase their commitment to the neighborhood and its renewal.
House suspects that the construction of Beck's new building, which broke ground in December of 2007, has already created more than 200 jobs and will add 30 to 40 additional jobs before it is complete. Changing Behavior
The finished offices will be in a two-story, 30,000-square-foot building that is designed to earn a Gold or Silver LEED's certification from USGBC
. The building is being built with operational efficiencies, including a green roof, recycled materials, solar panels that will yield a 5 percent energy savings, operable windows and full showers in restrooms. Showers will allow employees to freshen up if they opt to walk or ride bicycles to work or go for a jog over the lunch hour.
"We must change people's behavior if we want to encourage and embrace living and working downtown," says House, as he explains the decision to deliver the building with 3.9 parking spaces per 1,000-square-feet of parking space. New, suburban office buildings that have been developed in the last 10 years traditionally have delivered 5 to 7 parking spaces per 1,000-square-feet of parking space. "Our parking ratio will encourage employees to use mass transit, bike or carpool."
Tampa Heights is also in an enterprise zone that offers tax incentives for job creation. The neighborhood is also eligible for Tax Increment Financing and new market tax credits.
"It is all about job creation," House says.Capitalizing On Proximity
The Beck Group has a non-binding letter of intent with the University of South Florida to build a 60,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Clinical Learning and Simulation
. The Center could potentially attract out-of-state physicians and their families to move into the Heights.
USF chose the Heights because of the neighborhood's proximity to Tampa General Hospital
, Tampa International Airport
, the Tampa Riverwalk
, the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
, the Tampa Museum of Art
and easy access to mass transit to get the doctors and their families to the region's venues and attractions.
Financing has yet to be secured for the USF project, but the city and the county are considering some type of recovery zone bond.
"The county and city could contribute to the velocity of activity in the area and really kick start economic development in a positive way," House says.Julia Silva Rettig is a commercial real estate professional who dabbles in freelance writing when she isn't out jogging around The Upper Tampa Bay Trail or hanging out with her big Cuban family. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.