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Tampa Port Authority to build new offices

After more than 50 years in the business of trying to boost oceangoing trade, the Tampa Port Authority is getting new offices.

Port Authority board members voted at a special meeting Monday to spend up to $7.5-million on a 70,000-square-foot building at the southeast corner of Channelside Drive and Kennedy Boulevard. The building is expected to be built by Jan. 1, 1999.

In addition to the authority's offices, the new building might include space for local trade groups, import/export companies, consulates and students enrolled in trade programs at the University of South Florida.

"We'll be able to have interns who are majoring in international business work with us," Port Authority spokeswoman Val Pastore said.

Now that the authority's board has agreed to go ahead with the project, the agency's staff will "go out and see how many leases we can actually confirm," Pastore said.

The new headquarters would replace the Port Authority's existing hard-to-find offices, which are off 19th Street. The authority was created in 1945, and Pastore said the existing offices might be nearly as old as the agency itself. They certainly look it, right down to the battered metal ashtrays bolted to the public seating in the authority's main meeting room.

"We are definitely in need of creating a better atmosphere in which to do business," Pastore said.