Make us your home page

Universal Health Care finds home in St. Petersburg's South Core Garage

Universal Health Care Group Inc. firmly planted its headquarters flag in downtown St. Petersburg this week with the $9 million purchase of the bottom two floors of the South Core Garage.

Built two decades ago at 100 Central Ave. for a Bay Plaza department store that never arrived, the distinctive but hard-to-lease space was called Central Station when it housed customer service departments of Florida Power in the late 1990s.

Now it has been dubbed 1 Universal Way, a name the new owners hope prods locals to stop calling the bell-towered, city-owned parking garage above it South Core.

The insurer has rented a quarter of the 160,000 square feet of office space since 2008. Now it's eager to remodel the rest of the two-story space, some of which has never been occupied.

The young, fast-growing insurance company — which specializes in a variety of Medicare Advantage plans — has already moved in 400 full-time workers.

"After looking at about 50 buildings all over the Tampa Bay area, we decided downtown St. Petersburg is the best place to be," said Dr. A.K. Desai, the company's founder and chief executive, who lives in Snell Isle. "About two-thirds of our workers live within 7 miles. I can see us quickly getting to 1,000 employees here."

Many were new hires as the company consolidated functions such as reducing its reliance on out-of-state call center vendors. Jobs pay in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, including claims processors and adjustors.

"We're setting down roots with the aim of being the employer of choice downtown," said chief operating officer Jim O'Drobnick.

Founded in 2002, Universal ran into trouble with state regulators in 2007. That's when the popularity of products like its Any, Any, Any Plan — which offers seniors a wide choice of doctors — caused membership to soar beyond the company's capital reserves to cover them. State regulators fined the company $450,000, froze enrollment and recommended liquidation if the company didn't shore up its finances.

The company was approved to resume selling coverage in February 2008 when it reported a surplus of $116 million plus reinsurance. Enrollment more than doubled to 100,000. Coverage spread to 11 states and will be extended to North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Universal Health Care finds home in St. Petersburg's South Core Garage 05/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:41am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bealls and West Marine to join Pollo Tropical at redeveloped Kmart site in Clearwater

    Economic Development

    CLEARWATER — The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion, bringing a handful of well-known retailers to the area.

    The long-vacant shopping plaza on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, formerly home to Kmart, is nearing completion. .JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. Justice Department says civil rights law does not protect gay people

    Working Life

    The Department of Justice has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation in a case now being considered by a New York appeals court.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Thursday. Sessions is traveling to El Salvador to meet with local leaders and discuss their efforts to fight gangs like MS-13. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]
  3. Duke Energy quietly builds a $1.5 billion plant in Citrus County


    CRYSTAL RIVER — Sequestered in a remote part of Citrus County is the most expensive development project you likely haven't heard of.

    Robby Armstrong, Sr., construction specialist at Duke Energy, leads a tour through construction on the combined cycle natural gas plant at the Crystal River Energy Complex. The $1.5 billion project is the largest Duke Energy combined cycle project. Construction is about midway through and expected to be completed in 2018.
[MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  4. Sign up for the daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times has launched a daily newsletter called News at Noon. It'll be the perfect way to catch up with the latest breaking news and our top stories right in your inbox each weekday.

  5. Jeff Bezos tops Bill Gates as world's richest person — for now


    A surge in Inc. shares Thursday morning in advance of the online retailer's earnings report has propelled founder Jeff Bezos past Bill Gates as the world's richest person, according to a Bloomberg report.

    Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, discusses his Blue Origin reusable rocket project in Colorado Springs in April. A bump in the price of Amazon shares in July of 2017 was enough to move  Bezos above Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, who has topped Forbes' billionaires list 18 out of the last 23 years. 
(Nick Cote | The New York Times]