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Departments of Health, Children & Families Among State Agencies Flocking To Centre of Tallahassee

The Center of Tallahassee is advertising leasing space on its website.
Center of Tallahassee

The Centre of Tallahassee is transitioning from a mall to a business complex. The building is starting to empty out to make room for new state offices. Several small stores are closing, have closed or are in the process of relocating.

Sharing Tree Shuts Down

Empty storefronts abound at the Centre of Tallahassee. Recently, Sharing Tree owner Carly Sinnadurai was packing up her store, after the lease wasn’t renewed.

“I know in my heart we need to exist," she said tearfully, "but we’re fighters and we’re going to keep up.”

Sharing Tree owner Carly Sinnadurai plays with a child at The Sharing Tree
Credit Noah Hertz / WFSU News
Sharing Tree owner Carly Sinnadurai plays with a child at The Sharing Tree

Sinnadurai was liquidating her arts and crafts supplies with items going for $5 a bag. During the Summer, her air conditioning system broke. Mall management told her she had to pay to replace it. 

Last month Burlington Coat Factory closed its Centre of Tallahassee location and  has opened a new one in a retail complex on Apalachee Parkway. Bath and Body Works and Victoria Secret are also shuttering. Whether Belk or AMC will remain is unknown, but spokespeople for the Barnes & Noble and Guitar Center say those stores are staying put for now.

What started as a plan for revitalization for the former Tallahassee Mall never quite came to be. The facility couldn’t fill its shops and stores. Despite promoting a remodel, many parts of the mall remain empty. However, new tenants could be arriving soon—at the expense of another office complex across town: The Koger Center.

It's manager is Todd Hakimi, with Tallahassee Corporate Center, LLC.  It’s an ownership group from New York that’s mostly made up of seniors and veterans.

The Marathon Building, at the Koger Center in Tallahassee.
Credit kogertallahassee.com
The Marathon Building, at the Koger Center in Tallahassee.

Koger Center Facing Tenant Losses

The Koger Center is presently home to eight state agencies. It’s got several office buildings with about 850,000 square feet of space. More than half of that currently leased to the state of Florida.

The Koger center was designed and built for the state of Florida and for the agencies there," Hakimi says.  Everything about it was for the state of Florida," but Koger has also always been privately owned. 

Among its tenants: the Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Financial Services, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and to a lesser extent, the Department of Education and the Department of Economic Opportunity. So far, only the Department of Juvenile Justice has renewed its lease.

The Department of Health is the largest tenant occupying about 16 percent of Koger. But it wants to move to the Centre of Tallahassee, which the Koger Center is suing to stop.

"It gives us a competitive edge to give that best leasing value," says Hakimi. "Unfortunately, I think they [the agencies] were supposed to, per law, they were supposed to solicit existing space before they go to non-existing landlords.  But they obtained a waiver to get around that rule, and that issue is in court right now.” 

Hakimi says Koger is suing the Department of Management Services, which oversees state agency leases. 

The state is required to go through have a public bidding process, which DOH and other agencies did. 

Moving to the Centre

Hakimi says he's heard some of his tenants are looking to newer developments like Summit East. DMS says moving decisions are up to individual agencies. DOH didn’t return a request for comment in time for this story. However, NAI TALCOR, one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the area says finding a 130,000 square foot office space in Tallahassee isn’t easy and would likely take years to build that kind of inventory. NAI TALCOR  is working with the Centre of Tallahassee, which at 900,000 square feet,  happens to have some space available. The Department of Children and Families is planning to take up most of the mall’s interior. The Division of Corporations will occupy the old Legacy Fitness and DOH will take over the former Dillard’s wing. 

NAI TALCOR Commerical Advisor John McNeill,  says the agencies are basically getting brand new, turn-key space at the center with, "new roofs, electrical HVAC systems in place before occupancy." McNeill is representing the Centre. NAI TALCOR also deals with commerical property sales in the area.

NAI Talcor Commerical Advisor, John McNeill
Credit NAI Talcor / NAI Talcor
NAI Talcor
NAI Talcor Commerical Advisor, John McNeill

Complexes that used to house state agencies abound in Tallahassee. But McNeill says they’re becoming functionally obsolete by design. He says the use of the mall is a "win-win for the city" because it avoids over-building. However, the decisions by agencies to leave their current spaces mean other large complexes, like the Koger Center on Apalachee Parkway, could become largely empty. 

As for Sharing Tree Owner Carlie Sennadauri? She says she’s looking for a new home and trying to stay optiministic.

“We met with the superintendent Rocky Hanna, state representative Lorrane Ausley, and things are bound to happen. I tell my students there’s always s solution to the problem and we just have to find the missing piece to this puzzle.”

She's not alone, as other smaller stores find themselves looking for new homes as well. 

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.