Tampa’s Westshore district has a long-entrenched reputation as the city’s premier office market.
Now, a flurry of new development currently in the construction or planning stages promises to transform Westshore, just as areas such as downtown, the Channel District, West Tampa, and the newly branded Uptown District are either in the midst or on the cusp of similar sea changes.
The Westshore Alliance’s recent annual forum on development trends in the district provides a detailed look at where industry insiders and city officials see Westshore going.
“The days of Westshore being viewed as an office complex are long gone,” says Paula Buffa, the Westshore Alliance’s Programs Committee co-chair and senior director at Cushman & Wakefield of Florida’s Tampa office. “Westshore is a vibrant mixed use-development.”
With the downtown area “on fire” and Tampa International Airport building on its strong reputation with a multibillion-dollar renovation, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says Westshore is establishing itself as a gateway from the airport to downtown.
Several ambitious projects in the pipeline or under consideration are moving Westshore in that direction.
New developments to fill unmet demand
As the name indicates, Midtown Tampa is a project designed to bridge the gap between Westshore and downtown. The 1.9 million-square-foot mixed-use development off Dale Mabry Highway and Interstate 275 recently broke ground with plans to open by the time Tampa hosts the Super Bowl in 2021.
In the planning stages for some 15 years, Midtown Tampa is slated to be the first of multiple transformative projects in the Westshore area. It will also help meet two significant needs in Westshore: additional office space and new hotel rooms.
In addition to retail, restaurants and upscale apartments, Midtown Tampa will feature three new office towers that represent some of the first new office space in the Westshore district in decades and dual branded Aloft and Element hotels with a combined 230 rooms.
With an estimated 151 people moving to Tampa each day and the unemployment rate sitting at 3.3 percent, the office market is tight and leasing rates are up 30 percent since 2016, a report by the firm Colliers International shows.
“The market is getting tight and what that is saying to us is it is time to build,” says Mary Clare Codd, the executive managing director of Office & Industrial Services with Colliers.
In addition to the office towers at Midtown Tampa, the 120,000-square-foot Renaissance Center 7 building and the 100,000-square-foot Skyview Plaza are both coming down the pike in the Westshore district.
Tampa International Airport also plans to break ground on the 270,000-square-foot SkyCenter office building in October with an opening expected in 2021.
The wave of new office construction shows Tampa’s growing national profile as a business hub. Westshore, despite more mixed-use and residential growth, continues to flex its muscle as an in-demand corporate office market.
“The Westshore market has been the key corporate market on the west coast of Florida for a long time and that has not changed,” says Preston Reid, senior director at the Tampa office of capital market transaction services firm HFF.
Reid says that a strong corporate base brings a demand for hotels that, at this point, is not being fully met.
“There is definitely more need for hotels across Tampa, specifically Westshore,” he says.
Reid says that need will only increase with three major sporting events looming on the horizon: WrestleMania and the first round of the men’s basketball NCAA tournament in 2020 and the Super Bowl in 2021. He projects the Super Bowl along will generate 95,000 hotel visitor room nights and $500 million in economic impact while WrestleMania will bring in 50,000 room nights and $175 million in business.
To capitalize on those events and meet long-term demand, five hotel projects totaling nearly 800 rooms are under construction or in the planning stages in and around Westshore. The Current Hotel is slated to open soon at Rocky Point. In addition to Aloft and Element, a Hyatt House, Home2 Suites and Cambria Hotel are also in the pipeline to open in 2020 or 2021.
Plan to shop till you drop
With its proximity to affluent south Tampa neighborhoods and access to multiple highways, Westshore remains the strongest retail market in Tampa Bay, says Patrick Berman, the managing director of capital markets for Cushman & Wakefield.
The Westshore retail sector includes more than 97,000 employees, 250 restaurants, and the WestShore Plaza and International Plaza and Bay Street shopping centers.
But it is not enough.
“Demand is increasing every year and supply is barely keeping pace with demand,” Berman says.
To help meet that demand, Midtown Tampa will add 240,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space including a Whole Foods Market and restaurants.
Looking more long-term, there are ambitious plans for a two-phase more than 150,000-square-foot redevelopment and expansion of WestShore Plaza that will add retail, grocery, residential, hotel, and office space. Currently, that project has an application to the city to change the zoning designation on the mall property from retail to mixed-use.
Shifting approaches to transportation
With I-275 and State Road 60 running through the heart of the Westshore District, the area has long had a reputation for being automobile-centric. Developers are trying to shake that with pedestrian and bicycle friendly developments while Tampa’s planned road projects on Cypress Street, Lois Avenue, and Spruce Street fill gaps in the sidewalk system and add features such as multi-use paths and signalized midblock crosswalks.
The Hillsborough Area Reginal Transit Authority (HART) is also looking at ways to use money from the 2018 sales tax referendum to improve public transit, including a potential fixed guideway corridor system linking Westshore, downtown, and the University of South Florida.
Westshore Alliance Executive Director Ann Kulig notes that the nonprofit business and community membership organization has had a transportation action plan in place for years. Last year, that plan’s priorities helped lead to 10 miles of new sidewalk construction, she says.
“Westshore needs to be more connected for pedestrians,” Kulig says. “I need to be able to walk out of my office and go to lunch. I should not have to take a car.”