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Tampa Office Vacancies Could See A Turnaround In The Future

Downtown Tampa Skyline
Thomas Iacobucci/ WUSF
Real estate brokerage firm Colliers International says office vacancies in downtown Tampa are currently sitting at 12 percent.

The amount of empty office space in downtown Tampa has been a concern since the pandemic started, and uncertainty remains for the future.

With an increasing number of people receiving COVID-19 vaccines, there has been more talk of returning to work in person. However, some people still have concerns about returning to the office.

According to a survey by Eagle Hill Consulting, over 50 percent of employees in the U.S. think they’d be more exposed to the COVID-19 virus at their job.

Additionally, 42 percent of people believe workplaces should wait to reopen until vaccines are more widely available to the public.

Real estate brokerage firm Colliers International says office vacancies in downtown Tampa are currently sitting at 12 percent. But Executive Managing Director Bill Reeves thinks that will change in the future.

“I believe, right now, we are very active in responding to proposals and requests for information on vacancies, which is encouraging,” he said. “I believe that we will, within the next 12 months, be back to a pre-COVID level of vacancy rates.”

However, this will likely depend on how safe employees feel returning to their workplace. Some of these factors, according to the Eagle Hill survey, include:

  • the use and availability of protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer;
  • mandating employees with symptoms stay home;
  • regular COVID-19 tests for employees, and
  • social distancing.

Reeves said that many offices have already begun taking these precautions to prepare for employees to return to work in person.

“It's very similar to what you see in grocery stores or restaurants: six-foot distancing, wearing your mask if you're not at your desk, not overpopulating elevator banks when entering multi-tenant office buildings.”

Vacancies also affect other businesses, such as restaurants, parking garages, and retail stores that surround office buildings and depend on their employees’ foot traffic to survive.

However, Reeves said this does not seem like a problem for Florida, which is picking up extra business from other states that are still closed to some extent.

“The benefit of being in Florida is we're starting to see inbound businesses move (from) Northeast and Midwest cities that have not been officially opened yet,” said Reeves.

“We're starting to see those (office) vacancies being absorbed not only by local companies that are already in the Tampa Bay area, but from companies migrating from New York City, Chicago, and cities such as that that have not been able to go back to a more normal working environment.”

Devonta Davis is the WUSF Noble Radio News Intern for the spring 2021 semester.
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