TAMPA — With construction on one building already rising to the fourth floor, a recent construction update for the two six-story buildings at the Heights Union office project was a little late for a groundbreaking, a little early for a topping-off.
But the timing worked to show that the project, now 55 percent leased, is attracting the kind of tenants that the developers of the Heights want.
"When we sat down and planned the Heights out, our goal was that the story of the Heights was going to be about quality jobs," developer Adam Harden said. That started with a $20 million project to restore the industrial space at the Armature Works and bring in the kind of amenities that would attract employers: a food hall, restaurants, a rooftop bar, a lawn on the riverfront, co-working space and an event hall.
THE ARMATURE WORKS: A long-awaited transformation
So far, developers have signed leases for the Heights Union with Axogen, a fast-growing Gainesville startup that's focused on developing nerve regeneration and repair technologies for commercial use; WeWork, a co-working company with locations in about three dozen U.S. cities and nearly twice that many across Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East; and DPR Construction, the builder on the project.
Axogen likes the Heights Union as a place where its employees can live nearby, company chairwoman, president and chief executive officer Karen Zaderej said. And it likes Tampa because the bay area is "quickly gaining a global reputation as a growing hub and a training ground for scientists, physicians and the technicians that we need in our business."
"We needed a city where we could attract the best talent," Zaderej said. "Tampa quickly rose to the top of the list. This region has emerged as a driving force behind the state's fast-growing life science industry."
Rising at the southwest corner of W Palm Avenue and N Tampa Street, the Heights Union will include 42,000 square feet of street-level retail, a 1,500-space parking garage and a rooftop deck. The office project is the latest phase of a larger redevelopment that so far includes the Armature Works and The Pearl, a 314-apartment building. The Heights Union is expected to open in the second quarter of 2020, Harden said.
At last week's event, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the development of The Heights, Ulele, the 220 W Seventh Avenue office building and the Bush Ross law offices took place "because all of you believed not in what you saw" 10 or 15 years ago, but because of "what this could be." Back then, he said, the area consisted of empty buildings and fallow land, while Tampa itself was a "donor city of talent and young people to places like Charlotte and Austin and Raleigh."
"Look at us now," he said. "That talent pipeline that you talked about is full. These young people, our kids that we were losing to these other cities, are now coming back in droves, and they're bringing their friends with them."
Follow trends affecting the local economy
Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
TIMES COLUMNIST GRAHAM BRINK: Homegrown millennials returning to Tampa Bay. Here's why.
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times