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High-tech firms drawn to Bryan Dairy Road

Several Fortune 500 firms have nestled into one of the last stretches of vacant industrial land in Pinellas.

Every week, it seems, another high-tech company announces a move to Bryan Dairy Road. Rapidly, the mid-Pinellas thoroughfare is becoming a corridor of industry.

Bryan Dairy _ where Largo, Seminole and Pinellas Park meet _ has some of the usual draws for companies: convenience and availability.

The road is one of the last bastions of vacant industrial land in Pinellas County, and its 2-mile east-west corridor soon will connect to U.S. 19 and, eventually, Interstate 275.

But those who have watched Bryan Dairy develop over the past three or four years say other factors also have weighed in.

The county's Science, Technology and Research Center may be part of the attraction.

STAR Center officials contend that their mini-mall of 24 specialized, high-tech companies is a magnet for other related industries.

The other part of Bryan Dairy's appeal, observers say, is that it has not developed in the same way as its clogged neighbor to the north, Ulmerton Road.

There isn't a fast-food restaurant on the corridor, though thousands report to work there every day. There's just one full-time traffic light, at Bryan Dairy and Belcher roads. Another light is turned on only when Eckerd Corp.'s 1,500 employees are arriving or leaving each day.

The buildings, mostly offices in the front with plants behind, belie their use as manufacturing facilities for everything from sails to satellite parts.

"If you drive by, from the front, what you see is a two-story office building," said John Dunphy, a commercial real estate broke with Colliers Arnold.

On one of the narrower pieces of land along the south side of Bryan Dairy, overlooking the Bardmoor golf course, Harrod Properties just completed a 90,000-square-foot, three-story office building covered in brick.

A second, identical building is under construction.

"That was kind of a new product for the market," said real estate broker Jean-Charles Faust, who is marketing about 11 acres of vacant land along Bryan Dairy. "Harrod knew what he was doing."

Dunphy said the cachet of some of the companies on Bryan Dairy has helped push the quality of the development there.

"For whatever reasons, that area drew in some high-profile companies," he said. "You've got some Fortune 500 companies in that neck of the woods. In order to maintain a nicer atmosphere for their employees, you get those companies going into nicer spaces."

Among some of the big names on Bryan Dairy are Eckerd, Baxter International and Raytheon.

Eckerd's corporate headquarters has been on Bryan Dairy for almost 20 years, and it recently added a mail-order center.

Baxter International, which came in 1987, makes electronic medical equipment in its Bryan Dairy Road plant, including blood-cell separators and hemodialysis machines.

Raytheon, which moved to the STAR Center less than two years ago, makes equipment ranging from circuit boards to satellite communications systems mounted on Humvees for the Department of Defense.

The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's office said it has not tracked the property-value change of the corridor as it has developed. Neither has the county's economic development department.

But director Buzz David said he is confident that the STAR Center has had at least some effect on the area's success. "I think it's got to have some impact," he said.

Real estate brokers marketing the remaining vacant land said they aren't sure the center has had a huge effect, but they say they have seen nearby property values rise, nonetheless.

Dunphy has listed three vacant parcels on the eastern end of Bryan Dairy totaling 18 acres for around $3-million, about $4 a square foot or $166,666 an acre.

Faust has three parcels: an acre with frontage on Bryan Dairy, about 8 acres of industrial land, and 2.6 acres of commercial land in the Fortune 2000 Business Center.

His parcels are priced at $495,000 for the acre tract; at $4.50 a square foot (about $196,000 an acre) for the industrial tract; and $3.50 a square foot (about $152,500 an acre) for the commercial tract.

Dunphy said property values in the corridor have increased 30 percent to 45 percent in four years. Lease rates, he said, tend to be 10 percent to 20 percent higher along the corridor than in other industrial areas of the county.

On top of everything else, he said, Bryan Dairy is near a wide range of housing options. Within 5 miles, he said, the price range goes from the $75,000 homes affordable to lower paid workers to $1-million homes for executives.

"The only other area in the county you can say that about is the Gateway area of St. Pete," Dunphy said.

The coming connection to U.S. 19 and the interstate can only enhance Bryan Dairy's appeal, observers agree.

"Once that is complete," Dunphy said, "I think property values will continue to skyrocket."