Speculative office building in Tampa suburbs lands massive regional HQ

AAA Inc., The Auto Club Group plans to consolidate two Tampa office locations into one massive regional headquarters near Tampa International Airport.

The organization, which provides roadside assistance and other services to its members, has signed a lease for the entirety of a 150,000-square-foot building under construction in Renaissance Center, an office park north of the airport.

AAA Inc. has signed a 150,000-square-foot lease at this office building, under construction in Renaissance Center. The office park is north of Tampa International Airport.

New Jersey-based Vision Properties broke ground on the building in December on an entirely speculative basis, meaning it didn’t have any tenants committed to the space. Vision acquired the 573,053-square-foot office park in early 2016.

Renaissance Center was built as a campus for Capital One. Capital One retains a presence there, and some of the space is leased to WellCare Health Plans Inc. Between the two companies, Renaissance Center is 100 percent occupied.

When Vision announced its plans in September 2016, the developer was planning a three-story, 111,000-square-foot building. As site work was underway, Vision modified its plans to add a floor and increase the total square footage to 150,000.

“This is clearly a validation of our strategy since acquiring Renaissance Center, which was to fill a void that exists in the Tampa office market,” Anthony Arena, chief investment officer of Vision, said in a statement. “At acquisition, we saw the lack of large contiguous blocks of space as an opportunity, which we immediately seized upon.”

AAA is slated to move in when the new office opens in April 2018. The company will move workers out of 37,000 square feet in Hidden River Corporate Center and 90,000 square feet in Westshore’s Austin Center.

The deal is an extremely large office lease for Tampa, where most office leases are between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet.

Speculative office construction is exceedingly rare in the Tampa Bay region. In 2013, a 75,000-square-foot speculative building, Citrus Park Crossing, opened near Gunn Highway and the Veterans Expressway. That building had a 43,000-square-foot tenant when it opened its doors. Since then, office construction in the region has been limited to custom-built campuses, like the one Highwoods Properties Inc. developed for Laser Spine Institute.

With a dearth of new construction, big blocks of office space are increasingly difficult to come by — particularly the new, modern space that companies are looking for to attract and retain young talent.

Despite a surge in office occupancy, there’s been so little development because rents haven’t yet risen to the point of justifying new construction, though brokers and developers say rental rates are finally on an upswing. Vision’s success with its speculative building could encourage other developers to consider similar projects.

Vision is already looking for its next smashing success. “We’re still looking to invest in the right opportunities in Hillsborough County,” William Bertolero, a partner in the firm, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “We have been looking just because we really do like the fundamentals of the office market.”

Vision used in-house representation — Bertolero and Arena — to broker the lease transaction. Rick Pifer and Tony Sorgi of Plante Moran Cresa and James Garvey and K.C. Tenukas of Cushman and Wakefield Inc. represented AAA.

Itasca Construction Associates is the general contractor on the project. Horton Harley and Carter is the architect.

The deal could also be a catalyst for one of the most closely watched redevelopment projects in Tampa. At 90,000 square feet, AAA is one of the largest office tenants in Austin Center, leaving that property with a big vacancy once AAA moves to its new home.

Austin Center was sold to Redstone Investments in 2015. It is an aging office park and one of the most attractive urban infill sites in the Southeast.

Redstone has been focusing on increasing the office occupancy levels to stabilize the property in the short term. Redstone’s long-term vision for the site includes a mixed-use urban development that could include residential, office, retail and hospitality space.

Redstone President Lyle Fogarty did not respond to a request for comment Monday.