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Bungalow-style office buildings for Tampa Heights

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EXCLUSIVE REPORTS

From the May 14, 2004 print edition

Bungalow-style office buildings planned for Tampa Heights

Susan Ladika

Special to the Business Journal

TAMPA -- Seeing the residential portion of Tampa Heights flourishing, Arcat LLC is making its mark in a commercial section once home to wealthy business owners.

Developed in the late 1880s, the Tampa Heights neighborhood just north of downtown was "the original residential suburb of Tampa," said Cathy Byrd, who together with Arnaldo Hernandez, owns Arcat. "Most business owners lived here. This is where the old money was," Byrd said.

But the area suffered from neglect over the years until soaring prices in South Tampa and the Heights' proximity to downtown began drawing homebuyers.

Byrd and Hernandez, foreseeing business owners following suit, are developing four bungalow-style office buildings at 402 E. Oak Ave. They have the first newly constructed commercial project in the area.

Del Acosta, the city's historic preservation manager, said the commercial area of Tampa Heights has seen some rehabilitation of existing, owner-occupied structures. But The Bungalows at Oak Village "really represents the first time for something a little more significant, a number of structures all on vacant land," Acosta said.

Byrd said they opted for bungalow-style buildings because they wanted to stay with the flavor of what was originally there. The Bungalows at Oak Village will have porches, metal roofs and wooden windows. The exposed part of the elevated foundations will be made of brick.

The idea for the new office buildings was born over lunch one day. Byrd, who owns Innovative Restorations Inc., specializing in historic renovations, and Hernandez, who owns the Solah architectural firm, had first worked together years ago developing juvenile justice facilities.

Byrd wanted to do her own development, and she and Hernandez began discussing vacant lots the city was trying to sell. They decided to drive around to check out what was available, focusing on Ybor City and Tampa Heights.

They found the ideal property --- four contiguous lots in the Tampa Heights historic district -- and after about a year of waiting for the city's approval, the property was theirs.

The 4,000-square-foot buildings will have nearly 2,500 square feet of space downstairs and about 1,500 square feet upstairs, plus 200 square feet for porches. Each floor will be separately metered, and have a unisex bathroom.

Barbara Deakin, a real estate broker and vice president of Taggart Properties Inc., is representing the project. Deakin said she expects demand for the office space to come from professionals such as attorneys, engineers and psychologists.

The $1.8-million project is literally a couple of minutes north of downtown.

Firms can lease, buy or lease with an option to buy the bungalows, Deakin said. Buying the building outright will cost $525,000. For tenants leasing a building and paying their operating expenses, the cost will be $12 per square foot. Full-service office space, with operating expenses included, will be $17 per square foot.

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