First large corporate headquarters announced for Channel District

Quality Distribution, Inc. to occupy 45,000 sf at Grand Central.

Mercury Advisors announced today that one of the first large corporate headquarters to locate in the Channel District, Quality Distribution, Inc. (QDI), has signed a 10-year, 45,000 sf ground floor lease at Grand Central at Kennedy.

QDI is a global leader in liquid bulk transportation, logistics and depot services and is a critical provider for many of the Fortune 500 companies including Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical Company and PPG Industries. The company is relocating its corporate headquarters from 4041 Park Oaks Blvd. in Tampa to Grand Central at Kennedy early in the fourth quarter of 2017, initially bringing approximately 250 employees to this location.

“Quality Distribution’s move to Grand Central in the Channel District is not only a gain for Tampa’s Downtown but for all of Tampa,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “This relocation is just another sign of Tampa’s renaissance and our ability to attract businesses that provide high-paying jobs for our ever growing city.”

Mercury Advisors’ directors, Ken Stoltenberg and Frank Bombeeck, said the space leased by QDI is located at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd. “This transaction is the largest downtown office lease deal so far in 2017,” said Stoltenberg. “We’re thrilled to welcome QDI to Grand Central at Kennedy and the rapidly developing Channel District in Downtown Tampa.”

The premiere urban location already boasts a vibrant, walkable retail neighborhood including restaurants, hair salon, dry cleaners, pub, plus Grand Central at Kennedy condominium, where only 11 residences remain for sale. A Publix Super Market is now under construction adjacent to Grand Central at Kennedy.

“We started researching relocation opportunities over a year ago and were keenly aware of the growth prospects and potential of the downtown Channel District,” said QDI executives Gary Enzor, CEO and Joe Troy, CFO. “After an exhaustive review of the Tampa Bay area, we landed on Grand Central at Kennedy as an ideal location for us and our employees, who will be in the heart of the Channel District in a truly walkable neighborhood with an array of amenities just steps from our office doors.”

Bank of the Ozarks is financing the QDI buildout at Grand Central. The lease transaction was brokered by David Green, JLL for QDI and Avison & Young, Trey Carswell for Mercury Advisors.

Corporate HQ moving from suburbs to downtown Tampa’s Channel district

A transportation company is moving its corporate headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Tampa’s Channel district, bringing 250 employees to the urban core.

Quality Distribution Inc. has signed a 10-year lease for 45,000 square feet on the ground floor of Grand Central at Kennedy, the mixed-use development at Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Avenue that includes condominiums and retail space.

QDI’s space in Grand Central will front Kennedy Boulevard. Mercury Advisors, which developed Grand Central a decade ago, still owns the ground-floor retail space.

The Channel district has seen thousands of new residential units developed in the last five years, but there are few large office users in the neighborhood. Much of the district’s office space is boutique and geared toward smaller firms.

At 45,000 square feet, the QDI relocation would be considered large anywhere in the Tampa Bay region, where most office leases are between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet. It’s particularly noteworthy in downtown Tampa, where large blocks of contiguous space — anything over 25,000 square feet — are increasingly difficult to come by.

The QDI office deal means more potential residents for the multifamily buildings in the Channel district and additional customers for the restaurants that have popped up there in recent years. Bringing 250 employees to the urban core — in close proximity to restaurants and retail — helps build the urban vibrancy that business and political leaders have been working toward for years in Tampa. Beyond the restaurants that exist within Grand Central, QDI’s office will be walking distance to the new Publix Super Markets Inc. store under construction at Twiggs Street and Meridian Avenue.

It’s also a win for Grand Central, which had lost two large users of its ground-floor commercial space in recent years. In March, Mercury Advisors filed an eviction lawsuit against Powerhouse Gym; in early 2016, BoConcept shuttered, leaving 7,000 square feet vacant.

Trey Carswell of Avison & Young represented Mercury Advisors in the lease transaction; David Green of JLL represented QDI.

“This transaction is the largest downtown office lease deal so far in 2017,” Ken Stoltenberg, principal of Mercury Advisors, said in a statement.

The Fitzgerald, a multifamily building that recently opened across the street from QDI’s new office space, is in the process of courting retail tenants.

“Quality Distribution’s move to Grand Central in the Channel District is not only a gain for Tampa’s downtown but for all of Tampa,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement. “This relocation is just another sign of Tampa’s renaissance and our ability to attract businesses that provide high-paying jobs for our ever growing city.”

The company is leaving a suburban office in the Highland Oaks area, near Interstate 75 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“We started researching relocation opportunities over a year ago and were keenly aware of the growth prospects and potential of the downtown Channel District,” QDI said in a statement attributed to CEO Gary Enzor and Joe Troy, chief financial officer. “After an exhaustive review of the Tampa Bay area, we landed on Grand Central at Kennedy as an ideal location for us and our employees, who will be in the heart of the Channel District in a truly walkable neighborhood with an array of amenities just steps from our office doors.”

Mercury Advisors — Stoltenberg and business partner Frank Bombeck — was one of the first investors in the Channel district, breaking ground on Grand Central at Kennedy in 2005. The development wrapped construction in 2007, just as the condominium market was crashing, leaving Mercury Advisors with more than 200 units to operate as apartments.

The group in 2016 made a concerted effort to sell off the 60 or so remaining condos; they’re now down to 11 units and considering another condo project— a 61-unit boutique tower with units priced between $750,000 and $1.3 million.


Trigaux: How a tasty menu helped bring Quality Distribution’s headquarters to downtown Tampa

TAMPA — I’m not sure whether to credit the mushroom ricotta stuffed Paccheri pasta or wild boar lasagna at the Cena restaurant.

Such tasty Italian fare, it can be argued, is at least one good reason a billion-dollar company based in a Tampa office park near I-75 committed to relocate its headquarters and 250 employees to downtown Tampa’s Channel District.

Tampa’s Quality Distribution Inc., a long established area bulk transport trucking business, plans to move downtown, committing to a 10-year lease for 45,000 square feet of commercial office space inside the Grand Central at Kennedy building.

Quality Distribution looked far and wide across the Tampa Bay region for a new headquarters site. It helped immensely that CEO Gary Enzor frequents Cena. By so doing, he grew more familiar with the potential of the immediate downtown area that includes adjacent Grand Central at Kennedy.

Funny how big happenings can blossom from simple things like good food.

This is a coup for many. Quality Distribution’s move means it will become one of the early (with more to come) corporate relocations in and near the Channel District. The district in turn is part of the far larger space starting to be transformed by Strategic Property Partners, the joint venture of Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates-backed Cascade Investment.

Another winner in this deal is Mercury Advisors, which developed Grand Central at Kennedy. Director Ken Stoltenberg says the 45,000-square-foot space is the largest office space deal so far this year in the Tampa Bay area. The $4 million or so buildout of the space will start soon so that Quality Distribution can move in as early as September. Headquarter signage, Stoltenberg says, will be viewable from the Crosstown Expressway.

“This is big. We’re excited,” the Mercury Advisors executive says.

“Regardless of where you work, certain things are important,” he adds — “like having a walkable urban neighborhood for all your employees.”

After the withering recession, things have picked up considerably of late. Of 392 condo units in Grand Central at Kennedy, only 11 are unsold.

Another potential winner is Vinik and his $3 billion, 50-acre joint venture. While Quality Distribution isn’t a household name, it is a solid player in the bulk transport of chemicals and foodstuffs. And its 250 HQ employees will be only to happy to spend their money where they work. Some may even choose to live close enough to walk to their new offices.

Quality Distribution’s arrival may also spur more office space in the area as developers sense momentum. Stoltenberg cites Vinik and fellow developers Larry Feldman and Port Tampa Bay as players to watch.

“We are thrilled with what Jeff Vinik is doing,” he says.

Still, a project of Strategic Property Partners’ size is a 20- to 30-year undertaking.

Stoltenberg laughs. Patience is a virtue in most real estate deals. He says it took 15 years of prodding Publix before the chain agreed to open a nearby downtown supermarket. It is slated to open later this year.


Tampa trucking company Quality Distribution relocating headquarters to downtown Channel District

Quality Distribution Inc., a trucking business based off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near I-75 in Tampa, plans to move its headquarters to the ground floor of Grand Central at Kennedy, the mixed-use development at Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Avenue that includes condominiums and retail space. That’s a relocation of 250 employees and a new 45,000-square-foot headquarters coming to the Channel District in downtown Tampa.

Quality Distributors operates in the bulk tank truck market in North America, mostly shipping chemicals, gasoline and food-grade products.


Hotel with ground-floor retail planned for Channel district

A Tampa developer who picked up a prime corner of downtown’s Channel district earlier this year has revealed its plans for the property.

Liberty Group is planning a nine-story hotel with seven-story parking garage at 1155 E. Kennedy Blvd., where Kennedy Boulevard intersects with North Meridian Avenue.

Liberty, which acquired the vacant .95-acre parcel in May for $3.25 million, is seeking a non-substantial change approval from the city of Tampa, as its proposed development is smaller than a site plan approved for that property in 2007.

Non-substantial changes are determined by city staff and not subject to public hearing or city council vote.

The new site plan, filed with the city on Monday, shows a 213-room Hampton Inn & Home 2 Suites by Hilton with 198 parking spaces. The ground floor of the hotel, at 14,899 square feet, will include a Starbucks coffee shop and lounge seating, according to the site plan.

A swimming pool and terrace are planned for the seventh level.

Punit Shah, CEO of Liberty Group, said the project could break ground in the third quarter of 2017.

“Our construction drawings are not complete so it will still be several months before we pull a building permit,” he said.

Liberty’s property is adjacent to The Slade, a fractured condominium with ground-floor retail, and Grand Central at Kennedy, a condominium tower with ground-floor retail. The site is less than two blocks from two other major developments: The Fitzgerald, a luxury apartment community, and Channel Club, which includes a 21-story apartment tower and Publix Super Markets Inc. store.

It is also less than a quarter mile from where Strategic Property Partners is planning a $3 billion, mixed-use district that is also slated to include at least two hotels. The hotels SPP is planning are different product types from what Liberty has proposed — SPP’s hotels include a 150-room boutique hotel topped by 30 condominium units as well as a large convention hotel.

While Tampa’s downtown has continued to attract new events and residents, a hotel hasn’t been built in the urban core since 2014, when Liberty redeveloped Aloft Tampa Downtown and Le Meridien opened in the former federal courthouse.


Publix Comes to Downtown Tampa

Mayor Bob Buckhorn joined representatives from Mercury Advisors, KAST Construction, Publix Super Markets, ECI Group, and others to kick-off the construction of the Channel Club, a 21-story apartment tower. Part of the tower’s design includes a Publix grocery store. Once complete, this project gives the Channel District all of the amenities of a walkable community.


Great news for downtown Tampa: Grocery store in Channel District breaks ground

Longtime residents of downtown Tampa say they’ve been waiting for a supermarket for at least 15 years.

They will have to wait a little while longer — about 620 days — but a Publix supermarket is definitely in the works as part of The Channel Club mixed-use development project in the Channel District.

Downtown residents, politicians and business people who attended a Friday groundbreaking for the project, hailed the announcement as a turning point in Tampa’s quest to become a city where people want to live, not just work.

“You need a complete community. You need a place to live, to work and to go to the grocery store,” says Linda Saul-Sena, a former Tampa City Council member and an urban planner.

“It’s like cooking without salt,” she says. “Now the neighborhood has all the ingredients.”

The 40,000-square-foot grocery will be built adjacent to The Channel Club, a 323-unit complex in a 21-story building near the corner of East Twiggs Street and Meridian Avenue. The city plans to spend $1.5 million on a public park next to the grocery, further enhancing the area’s attractiveness to current and new residents.

“It’s the ultimate amenity,” Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver says of the park-grocery nexus. “It’s hard to compete with this. You’re two or three minutes from the concerts and the museums.”

The Channel Club is being developed by Mercury Advisors, which built the nearby Grand Central at Kennedy, an upscale mixed-use complex with 392 residential condominiums and office and retail space on the lower floors.

Ken Stoltenberg, a director at Mercury, says he tried for nine years to get Publix to build a store in the shadow of the 12- and 14-story buildings at Grand Central at Kennedy. The company turned him down five times, he says.

“They wanted a prominent, drive-by location, and our spot at Grand Central didn’t give them that unfortunately,” Stoltenberg tells 83 Degrees.

But it only took one phone call to the Lakeland-based grocery chain to get a positive reply after they saw the plans for The Channel Club. The big difference? The proposed complex is near an on-ramp for the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

“It was the traffic pattern,” Stoltenberg says. “Everyone leaving downtown this way, either taking the Crosstown or going on (Highway) 60, goes right by it.”

Demand drives decision

Publix spokesman Brian West says population in the Channel District — both present and projected — guarantees the customer base necessary for a new grocery store.

“Look all around you; there are a lot of people in this area,” West says. “When you have a grocery store, you have to have that customer base, and it definitely exists in the Channel District. There’s loads of potential growth.”

Canyon Partners provided financing for Grand Central at Kennedy and will do the same for The Channel Club. Ron Muzii, a senior director with Canyon, says the addition of Publix was “an important component” in deciding to support the latest project.

“This area is in desperate need of a grocery store, and Publix is a good one,” Muzii says.

About 3,300 people now live in the Channel District, and that number is expected to grow to at least 5,000 with future projects.

Driving that expected influx is the growing popularity of urban living, a long-established lifestyle in densely packed Northeastern and Midwestern cities, and now blossoming in the Sunbelt. A key component of that popularity is the “walkable” neighborhood. Residents want to be able to walk to restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping.

The main demographics drawn to walkable neighborhoods are millennials, the mostly unmarried 18-34 age group that has less of an affinity for cars and more of an affinity toward healthy lifestyle choices than previous generations. Millennials are also known for using mass transit and riding bicycles for distances too far to walk.

Also drawn to the urban lifestyle are Baby Boomers, who want easy access to the arts, dining out and healthcare without being dependent on their automobiles and while shedding the responsibilities surrounding upkeep on a freestanding home and yard.

Vance Arnett and his wife Jane are examples of the latter group. Arnett is on his second career as an executive and career coach after working 35 years in Florida state government. The couple moved into the Channel District in 2012 and he now serves as president of the Channel District Community Alliance.

“There are a lot of folks filling some of the new technical jobs (in Tampa) and a lot of folks like me that have finished their first career and prefer that lifestyle rather than being car-bound,” Arnett says. “You’ve heard it for five years now: Millennials don’t want to be bound to a car. I’ve been in a two-car family for 25 years and we’re trying desperately to get down to one.”

One more jewel in Tampa’s crown

Supermarkets like Publix are typically seen in suburban settings where soccer moms can be seen piling 10 or more bags of groceries into one of dozens of minivans or SUVs crowding an acre-size parking lot.

But Arnett says a Publix will still be popular with Channel District residents because they shop differently.

“We shop every three to four days and I bring home two bags of groceries,” he says.

So is the addition of Publix to the downtown core really such a big deal?

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, no stranger to hyperbole, called the coming of the grocery store a “signature project that has told the world that we’ve arrived.”

He compared the Publix to other recent blockbuster events such as the University of South Florida medical school moving to the 40 waterfront acres being redeveloped by Strategic Property Partners and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and completion of the city’s Riverwalk.

“But I’m here to tell you, in terms of rounding out that mosaic and making this a true live, work and play environment, a grocery store is absolutely critical to that equation,” the mayor says.


Construction begins on downtown Tampa Publix

People have been waiting for this!

Friday, construction crews broke ground on a downtown Tampa Publix.

It’s between Twiggs and East Madison streets.

It will adjoin to a new 22-story residential tower.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn says this is just the latest example of how downtown is exploding with new development, including several apartment and condo buildings.

“This is a part of a huge boom. Over the next 18-24 months there is an anticipated to be more than 4,000 new residential units built in downtown Tampa. Tampa is alive, it’s vibrant and one of the hottest real estate markets in America. Young people are flocking here and they’re telling us they want amenities like grocery stores within walking distance,” Buckhorn explained.

Now that construction is underway, Publix employees tell us the store is expected to open in about 6 months.


City, developers to celebrate long-awaited Publix in downtown Tampa

Channel Club, the long-awaited development in downtown Tampa that includes a Publix Super Markets Inc. store, will be celebrated Friday morning.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the development team behind Channel Club will gather at the site at 1105 E. Twiggs St. at 10 a.m. The project is a joint venture between Tampa’s Mercury Advisors and Atlanta-based ECI Group.

Canyon Partners Real Estate, based in Los Angeles, has provided equity financing for the project. Capital One is the lender.

The project has been under construction for several weeks, since ECI and Mercury closed on the financing.

The Channel Club site is one of the last undeveloped parcels in the Channel district. The Publix store is a crucial component of Tampa’s ongoing downtown revitalization — having a major grocer in the urban core validates it as a true live-work-play neighborhood.


Construction begins on downtown Tampa Publix development

Dirt is finally moving on one of the most anticipated developments in downtown Tampa in the last decade.

Construction work on the Channel Club, a 21-story apartment tower and Publix Super Markets Inc. store, began Friday morning on a vacant lot between East Twiggs and East Madison streets.

Ken Stoltenberg, a principal with Mercury Advisors in Tampa, declined comment Friday. Mercury Advisors has been working on this development for years.

New signage on the site reveals more details on the players in the deal: Capital One Commercial Banking is listed along Mercury Advisors and KAST Construction, the general contractor. Canyon Partners Real Estate LLC, a Los Angeles-based hedge fund, is also listed.

Pre-construction work — tests and measuring to make way for a deep shaft foundation — began on the site in July.

The Publix store planned for the site will be 37,600 square feet, at the corner of East Twiggs Street and Meridian Avenue.

While the 21-story tower in the Channel Club site builds on downtown’s growing residential density, the Publix represents a major milestone in Tampa’s urban revitalization — a walkable, convenient grocery store.

With its track record of success, Publix’s commitment to a neighborhood can also help lure other retailers to an area. Strategic Property Partners is planning on a full-service grocer in its district, about a quarter-mile from the Channel Club site.


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