Result of sale could be retail for downtown St. Petersburg

Mortgages For Dummies, 2nd Edition

Part of a 1980s plan to spark a retail renaissance in downtown [tag]St. Petersburg[/tag], 100 Central Station may finally be rising to its potential almost 20 years later. A Michigan company, Lutz Real Estate Investments, has paid $15-million for the first two floors of the downtown building, soon to be vacated by Progress Energy. Its eight stories on Central Avenue between First and Second streets N consist of 133,279 square feet of commercial space below six floors of parking.

Though Progress is leaving early next year to occupy a new 16-story tower in downtown St. Petersburg, the company’s lease at Central Station extends until May 2008. Progress’ early departure leaves Lutz a year to renovate and market the class A office space, but don’t expect all the square footage to hold desks and copiers. “We’d be very happy to entertain retail on the first floor,” company principal Adam Lutz said. Lutz entered the Tampa Bay area last year with the purchase of the 670,000-square-foot Tri-County Business Park north of Tampa for $42-million. St. Petersburg’s attraction to the company was twofold: office and retail vacancy downtown has plunged to about 5 percent, a rise in demand that portends a rise in rents. Plus, downtown has become more lively, as underscored by the popularity of the shops and restaurants of BayWalk. Lutz is banking on the creation of what it calls a “24/7 live-work-and-play downtown.”

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