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Commercial show attracts brokers

Pieces of the Tampa Bay region were sprawled across a few dozen banquet tables at the Hyatt Regency Westshore last Wednesday.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

It was the first Showcase of Properties for members of the new Florida Gulf Coast Commercial Association of Realtors _ kind of a flea market for local commercial real estate brokers.

But instead of tube socks and fishing tackle, the wares for sale at this market ranged from empty office buildings to hundreds of acres of developable land.

And like a flea market, if you wanted it, it was there: restaurants along the Courtney Campbell Parkway, industrial sites in east Hillsborough County, garages in Oldsmar and subdivision sites in north Tampa.

Jerry Bobier, broker and president of Site Acquisitions & Consultants Inc., was one of those doing the selling.

"See this," Bobier said, running his finger down an aerial photo showing Interstate 4. "This is going to be solid from Tampa to Orlando someday." At least that's what Bobier hopes. His company is marketing several properties along the corridor, of course.

About 800 to 1,000 real estate salespeople and others visited Wednesday's showcase of properties, according to Bill Eshenbaugh, one of the organizers of the gathering.

It was one of the biggest events organized so far by the Florida Gulf Coast Commercial Association of Realtors, which was founded this year. And the event was the highlight of the commercial real estate week that the group was sponsoring.

The showcase also was significant because commercial real estate salespeople don't have an established Multiple Listing System as residential salespeople do. Seeing dozens of properties at one time is a lot easier than calling the number on every Realtor sign on the side of the road.

So did anybody sell anything?

"I haven't heard anybody say that yet," Eshenbaugh said. "But I know we got two showing appointments out of it and that's good."

Look for companies to scale back their office space between now and the end of the year.

About 40 percent of the nation's biggest corporations plan to reduce the amount of real estate they're using in the fourth quarter, according to a survey by the International Association of Corporate Real Estate Executives, also known as NACORE.

Bloomberg Business News reported last week that 38 percent of the companies surveyed said they plan to cut back on office space. About 17 percent said they plan to reduce manufacturing and distribution space.

There were some bright spots to the survey, though.

About 15 percent of respondents said they expect to increase the space they devote to research, and 11 percent said they expect to increase their retail space, according to Bloomberg.

Centex Homes is on the move again.

The company, the nation's biggest home builder, recently purchased 16.5 acres off Mullins Road, near Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue in fast-growing northwest Hillsborough County. Real estate company Cushman & Wakefield of Florida handled the deal.

Centex plans to build 48 homes on the land, the first phase of what is planned to be a 96-home subdivision called Hidden Oaks.

Tim Pettit, spokesman for Centex locally, said the company plans to start development in about three weeks and will start selling homes in December or January.

The subdivision is Centex Homes' ninth in the Tampa Bay area, and its fourth in northwest Hillsborough _ a spot many builders are finding attractive these days.

"That's our bread and butter up there," Pettit said.

As planned, homes at Hidden Oaks will begin in the $90,000 price range.