Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Question of conflict arise over demolition of Tampa airport offices building

Continental Airlines rented 4101 Jim Walter Blvd. for its reservation center until September. Now it will be torn down.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Continental Airlines rented 4101 Jim Walter Blvd. for its reservation center until September. Now it will be torn down.

TAMPA — A real estate firm concluded that an office building valued at more than $4 million and owned by Tampa International Airport was a "highly marketable asset" that could easily be rented.

The airport's staff said the two-story building was in good shape and needed little immediate maintenance work.

And a real estate broker said she had a tenant who was interested enough to request a tour of the building.

So why, then, is the 30-year-old building slated for demolition — especially when it had raked in nearly $500,000 in rent each year for the airport?

The man who made the decision is Louis Miller, the airport's executive director. He said it's the best move in a bad economy, when there are few tenants who could possibly rent it. He said the airport should move ahead with its plan to replace the building with a hangar, which is part of an overall expansion that Miller believes is necessary for growth.

Before reaching this conclusion, Miller consulted with one of his bosses, Al Austin. He's the chairman of the Hillsborough Aviation Authority, which governs TIA.

Austin also owns 400,000 square feet of office space in the adjacent West Shore area, of which about 80,000 square feet is now vacant. The building that's due to meet the wrecking ball has about 45,000 square feet.

Miller said he informed Austin because he was chairman and didn't think there was a potential for a conflict.

"I was only coordinating with Al as to what I'm doing," Miller said. "He didn't participate in making that decision."

Austin said Miller "ran it by" him first, asking him his opinion.

"I said, 'I have to agree with you,' "Austin said. Consulting with Miller on this matter was appropriate, he said, because he knows the office market. In no way was he serving his own interests by helping eliminate competition for his office buildings, Austin said.

"I have nothing that would compete with that building," said Austin, one of Tampa's most prominent developers and GOP fundraisers. "If I had a conflict, I would have abstained."

Austin and Miller say the building would require costly upgrades and doesn't fit into the airport's long-term plans. But Miller acknowledged the hangar that is expected to replace the building may not be built for another 10 years.

Miller said there are just no tenants out there to rent it until then.

But Mercedes Angell, a senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, said she told the authority's director of properties and contracts, Ted Leslie, that she had a potential tenant who wanted a building tour. She said Leslie told her it was too late.

"I don't question the decision they made, it just surprised me," Angell said.

Miller said he doesn't know why Leslie turned Angell away.

"I was unaware she had a prospect," Miller said. "Why don't you talk to Ted then?"

Leslie said Angell called too late.

"We already evaluated the building and concluded that it was to be torn down," Leslie said. "It didn't seem like there was any point."

At least one of the Aviation Authority's board members, lawyer Steve Burton, said he wonders why Austin was asked about the demolition and not all five members of the board, which includes Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, County Commissioner Ken Hagan and physician Joseph Diaco. He hopes to discuss the matter at today's board meeting.

"I'm reluctant to say there's a conflict, because I don't have all the facts," Burton said. "But this should have gone to the board so this question wouldn't have been asked."

Miller said only decisions to buy and sell property are reviewed by the board. Airport policy allows him to decide how to maintain, or even destroy, airport property, he said.

The building, at 4101 Jim Walter Blvd., was initially operated by the former Eastern Airlines starting in 1980. Continental Airlines converted it into its reservations center in 1991.

It paid $464,563 a year in a lease that expired in September. In response to media inquiries, Leslie wrote a summary for board members that said Continental was told this year its rent would be adjusted. An appraisal later determined the new rent would be $669,114 — a 44 percent hike.

Continental decided before the appraisal was done not to renew the lease. The airline chose to close its reservation center because of other issues, a spokesman said.

As far as TIA was concerned, however, the building still had value. The airport's maintenance staff said in June it was very well maintained. A report by the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield said the building was sought after by many tenants.

Miller said after consulting with his staff, he was told it was best to demolish it. But either the notes don't exist or weren't made available as to how the demolition decision was made.

The demolition will cost $79,000, Miller said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story. Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

Question of conflict arise over demolition of Tampa airport offices building 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]