Office Building's Rebirth Highlights District's Lofty Expectations
The revival of a five-story office building on Fletcher Avenue, bolstered by a future reimbursement from Hillsborough County, is precisely the type of private investment that proponents of a vibrant multipurpose district hope to attract.
The building at 3500 Fletcher Ave. is the first within the footprint of the ambitious Tampa Innovation Partnership - Tampa !p area to receive direct financial support through a Hillsborough County redevelopment program. The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners recently approved a grant reimbursement of almost $280,000 for the $1.68 million project.
The Economic Development program offers incentives for the smart reuse of commercial sites in four areas of unincorporated Hillsborough. A proposal's potential benefits to the community, including increased property taxes and job creation, are major considerations when the County reviews applications for matching grant funds.
The Fletcher Avenue property is in one of the four redevelopment areas, as well as within the Tampa !p district.
New York-based Eastbourne Investments is rehabilitating the 1976 office building. The property's close proximity to the University of South Florida and AdventHealth Tampa hospital were draws. With upgrades, Eastbourne hopes to erase the building's 34-percent vacancy rate and add about 150 workers, for a total of 400-500 people. "We think the property has much greater potential than what's being realized right now," says Eastbourne President Frank Egan.
The County's almost $280,000 contribution will be allocated after the work is completed. Reimbursement grants are contingent on investors putting at least matching amounts of their own money into projects. In this case, Eastbourne will invest more than five times the amount of the County grant.
The renovated office building fits neatly with the concept for Tampa !p, an undertaking led by the governments of Hillsborough County, Tampa, and Temple Terrace, along with more than two dozen local businesses and nonprofits.
Tampa !p is spread across 19 square miles that include USF and AdventHealth Tampa, along with Moffitt Cancer Center, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, and Busch Gardens. There's also the University Mall property, which a New York management firm plans to develop into a "research village" with laboratories, co-working and meeting spaces, stores, and residences.
These initial improvements are planned for the district:
- Gateway lighting at Fowler Avenue and Interstate 275.
- Upgrades to 131st Avenue, an east-west artery.
- Sidewalks connecting some key entities within the district, including USF, hospitals, and the University Mall property.
- A possible public art project: murals on the silos at a concrete products facility on Busch Boulevard, near I-275.
Ultimately, Tampa !p supporters hope to establish a thriving, magnetic district where clusters of technology, health care, education, and entertainment coexist and complement each another.