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No vacancies at Signature

After three years and steep price cuts, all 56,000 square feet of office and retail space at the base of St. Petersburg's iconic Signature Place has finally sold.

Once occupied, the space will house 13 businesses with about 100 employees, said developer Joel Cantor, who pioneered the $170 million project that transformed the city's waterfront skyline.

"Everything will sell if it is priced right," he said.

The 244 residential units in the 36-story building sold out last year.

Businesses owning space in the complex include ZGrille, Bull Fitness, the Mahaffey Co., Gulf Atlantic Communities, RKM Commercial Real Estate and Wee Galleries.

Signature Place, at First Avenue S and Second Street, is considered one of the most innovative projects in the bay area. Most of the residential units have a view of the bay, courtesy of the building's slim, sail-shaped profile.

But in the economic downturn, it took deep prices cuts to attract buyers.

The first commercial customers of Signature Place paid more than $200 per square foot for office space. Recent buyers paid about $100 per square foot.

St. Petersburg's downtown office vacancy rate for the best office space hovered at 26 percent at the end of June. In Tampa, it was about 20 percent.

Colliers International brokers Alan Feldshue and Melanie Jackson handled the sale of commercial space at Signature Place. About 18,000 square feet will be devoted to retail; 38,000 square feet will be used for offices. The commercial space had been on the market since 2008. None sold in 2009 or 2010. Nearly two-thirds sold this year.

"We didn't anticipate this market," Jackson said. "We adjusted the prices to today's market."

The building drew buyers because other downtown office buildings lack new, vacant spaces between 1,000 and 8,000 square feet that can be bought, Feldshue said.

"It's a better value to own than lease," he said. Feldshue and Jackson also credit the selling to a partnership with space planners and architects who helped sell the vision for the empty spaces and quickly provided cost estimates for potential customers.

Jeffrey Bullock recently moved his Bull Fitness into 5,000 square feet at the bottom of the building, facing Tampa Bay. The space and build out cost about $700,000. He expects to lure clients from the nearby residential towers. The grand opening is in October.

"We're close to people with financial means," Bullock said.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8459.

No vacancies at Signature 09/29/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011 9:09pm]
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