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North Pinellas office space filling up

Occupancy in North Pinellas office buildings is at 92 percent, an all-time high, according to a survey by a real estate company.

The new tenants are mostly professionals who want to work near their homes in Countryside and East Lake, said Mike Fields of Binswanger real estate company in Tampa.

Fields has been surveying office space occupancy in North Pinellas for 12 years. His survey includes the 29 office buildings that have multiple tenants and more than 20,000 square feet in the area bounded by Tarpon Avenue and McMullen-Booth Road, and Belcher and Sunset Point roads.

Fields said that for the past eight quarters, an average of about 30,000 square feet has been filled. New tenants in the second quarter, which ended June 30, included a small law firm, a computer company, an accounting firm, a rehabilitation clinic and a solid waste disposal company.

"It's the mom and pop, or neighborhood professional market," Fields said _ people who have come to the area because of its quality of life and want to work near home.

Of the tenants in those 29 buildings, 80 percent have less than 2,500 square feet, he said.

There isn't much space empty: 127,000 square feet out of the total of 1.6-million. And the largest contiguous class A space is 12,500 square feet in the Enterprise Building at the southeast corner of Enterprise Road and U.S. 19.

Fields said space is available because some tenants who were behind on paying the rent were evicted. He said the fact that a landlord would evict a delinquent tenant shows how well the market is doing.

Instead of leasing to a tenant who's behind in paying $12 a square foot, landlords can evict the delinquent tenant and get a new tenant who will pay $15 a square foot and will pay on time.

"It's a completely different market now," he said.

Class A space is the newest, most modern space, often more than one story, while class B space tends to be in single-story older buildings and class C space is the oldest space with the fewest amenities.

Despite the space filling up, Fields says he thinks the chances of new office buildings being constructed are low; there isn't much land left and banks won't loan money for construction.

Still, a developer who has a large tenant in mind might construct a building to suit that tenant and tack on some additional space. "That'll happen in the next 18 months or so," Fields said.

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