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Here’s a new twist on crowd funding - raising money to buy two Tampa Bay office buildings

Developer of Tampa’s proposed Riverwalk Place buys a pair of buildings in the Carillon center

ST. PETERSBURG — You’ve probably heard of crowd funding as way to raise money for medical bills, emergency housing or a trip to a big event by the local high school band. But how about to buy an office building?

Feldman Equities recently did just that, using money from multiple investors to help finance its $18.2 million purchase of Castille at Carillon. The Tampa-based company went through the CrowdStreet Markeplace, a crowd-funding platform, to acquire the two buildings in the Carillon Office Park in Pinellas County’s Gateway area.

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"The concept of crowd funding allows for a much broader base of investors to enjoy the benefits of commercial real estate,'' said John Gerlach of Colliers International, which represented the seller, a Sarasota company.

In general, crowd funding or crowd sourcing pools small amounts from many individuals into what can become a substantial sum of money. Donations typically are made via web sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, often with the aim of helping a needy person or providing seed capital for a small business.

Crowd funding for real estate projects, both commercial and residential, began in the wake of the Great Recession while banks were still reluctant to lend. Since then it has grown into what Forbes estimates will be a $300 billion industry by 2025.

Feldman Equities, headed by developer Larry Feldman, and its joint venture partners own or manage over 4 million square feet of Florida office space. Among the holdings are several office buildings in downtown St. Petersburg as well as the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Tampa. Feldman also is co-developer of Riverwalk Place, a proposed 50-plus story condo tower along Tampa’s riverfront.

Castille at Carillon’s two buildings are connected by a breezeway and parking garage. Occupancy was 94 percent at the time of sale, with long-term tenants including Edward Jones and Electronic Data. The Class A buildings, on a 4.31-acre site, have a total of 104,897 square feet of rentable space.

"With shrinking vacancies through the Tampa Bay market, the Gateway submarket is expected to maintain high occupancies and rent increases in the future, making it an excellent area to purchase investment properties,'' Gerlach said.