Tallahassee looks for tenants to fill empty state office buildings

Mar 29, 2012

It seems the Capital City area is just swimming in vacant commercial real estate.  Tom Flanigan reports there’s a new move afoot to connect all that empty space with occupants.

Tallahassee/Leon County Economic Development Council Chair Karen Moore says it’s simply a fact of life….every business has to have somewhere to call home.

“Businesses that need to have space to grow, businesses that want to come into our economy and invest in this community, we welcome…we want you!”

And that warm welcome may soon come with an unbeatable deal when it comes to locating in a space.  That’s because so much of Leon County’s business space is already well under market value simply because, says County Commission Chair Akin Akinyemi, there’s so much of it...

“There are more than one-point-five square foot of vacant building in over 250 buildings, ranging from single offices to large ones like the one we have here, over 265,000 square foot in one location.”

That location is the sprawling building on Blair Stone Road that used to be the headquarters for the Florida Department of Corrections.  By the way, the total amount of available real estate in Leon County is 1.5 MILLION square feet.  That’s more than the total space inside the sixty-story Bank of America skyscraper in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Having so much non-productive floor space around has a depressing impact on both prices and rental rates.  Stuart Proctor with Structural Commercial Real Estate says that’s usually a bad thing.

“The flip side to that is it also creates huge opportunities.  Opportunities for our market and our economy to solicit and recruit private sector jobs to a community that’s long been dominated by public sector office space.  So these are opportunities that we’ve quite frankly never had before.”

Frank Williams with Florida Developers, Inc. says, as new and existing firms take advantage of the low cost of moving into that space, some other local businesses will benefit, too.

“Businesses that choose to grow and expand in our area require new construction, remodeling and renovation space to attract employees and customers alike.”

The only trick is hooking up prospective occupants with all that inexpensive space.  So on top of existing efforts to recruit and attract business, there’s something new.  It’s an ad hoc committee made up of community organizations.  County Commission Chair Akinyemi says that committee will have a number of jobs.

“We’re going to be mostly a deal-maker.  Other than inventory building, we’re going to put building owners with potential buyers or renters and make a deal.  That is the essence of this, but along with the way in doing that, we’re going to look for impediments, whether it’s parking, whether it’s zoning, whatever it is, and remove it to make the sale more attractive.”

The ad hoc committee’s first meeting is set for next Thursday.  It will have ongoing discussions over the next ninety days before submitting its policy wish list to the county commission.