Would HCC ever sell its Davis Islands administration building? Definitely maybe.

Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands.
Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Nov. 14, 2019|Updated Nov. 14, 2019

TAMPA — If the market is right, and the offers prove adequately alluring, Hillsborough Community College is poised to put its Davis Islands office building on the market, records show.

The college began quietly gauging interest in the prime waterfront parcel this fall, soliciting “non-binding letters of interest or intent” from potential buyers from September 27 to October 31. The 3.7 acre property netted three offers — one with a $12 million purchase price and two others offering $15 million, records show.

But now it’s up to HCC’s Board of Trustees to decide whether those proposals portend a market that’s ripe for selling the college’s flagship property, located at 39 Columbia Drive in a coveted corner of Davis Islands real estate.

It’s a question that’s come up plenty of times before, HCC spokeswoman Ashley Carl said. But now Hillsborough County is continuing to see property values increase despite national talk of a recession. And with shrinking inventories continuing to drive up prices throughout the Tampa Bay area, the college’s prime waterfront location stands apart as one of few large parcels on Davis Islands with the possibility of going up for sale anytime soon.

“A number of people have approached the college over the last few years about selling the property, and so our board just wanted to ascertain if there really was any legitimate interest in it,” Carl said. “We really haven’t been looking to relocate or anything like that...This was really just meant to gauge whether this is a conversation even worth having right now.”

There is no set deadline for when HCC has to reach a decision, Carl said. The trustees hope to review the three submissions at an upcoming meeting Dec. 4 or Jan. 22.

The college asked all interested developers to submit “non-binding letters” detailing a proposed price and responsibility for the payment of closing costs, as well as identifying any special terms or conditions an interested buyer would want to incorporate into a sale agreement. In a 22-page information packet, HCC stated that it was open to considering a possible land exchange in lieu of or in addition to a cash payment, but that any offer would have to provide “sufficient incentive” for the college to pack up and relocate.

The property currently holds the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center, an 8-story, 71,000 square foot office center housing the college’s administrators, as well as a separate, single-story corporate training center.

Three developers answered the college’s call: the Palm-Beach based Kolter Group Acquisitions, Cushman & Wakefield on behalf of Tampa General Hospital, and Accardi Real Estate Co., owned by the twin brothers behind Seven One Seven Parking Services, Jason and John Accardi.

While the Accardis declined to outline a proposed use for the property in their submissions, the Kolter Group envisioned the space holding an 8-story, 99-unit luxury condominium building and parking garage, while Tampa General hoped to expand the existing hospital facilities that abut the north end of the property.

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It’s an attractive offer for developers. The college’s compound is nestled in a residential area of Davis Islands at the southeast corner of Columbia Drive and Arbor place and boasts more than 300 feet of prime waterfront property overlooking the west side of Seddon Channel opposite Harbour Island. To the south, the parcel is bordered by the City of Tampa’s Sandra W. Freeman Tennis Complex at Marjorie Park.

A brochure posted online by HCC’s real estate consultant Savills Occupier Services describes the parcel as located “in a nearly 100 percent built-out, established neighborhood that is desirable to prospective homeowners, retailers, and office users.” That’s backed up by the property’s increasing appraisal reports, which jumped from about $8 million in 2014 to about $11.2 million last year, according to property appraiser records.

HCC acquired the property from the county in the early 1970s, after the now-defunct Hillsborough County Hospital and Welfare Board wound down its Gordon Keller School of Nursing. It came with a dormitory, built in 1959, where HCC initially located its two-year nursing program. It wasn’t until 1991 that the structure underwent renovation to house the college Board of Trustees, president and other administrative offices. Over the past eight years, the main office building and its adjacent auditorium, conference rooms and training facility have undergone an estimated $4 million worth of renovations.

State law makes clear that the community college can’t sell off a structure unless it can prove it has no “academic use” — a feat that may be difficult for HCC’s Board of Trustees. The trustees can only sell college property if an independent “educational plant survey” determines the facility is “unnecessary for educational purposes.”

All proceeds from a sale would go directly to the college, Carl said.

If the board decides to move forward with a sale, the college would first need to acquire two new property appraisals before issuing another public solicitation for “requests for offers."