Historic Ybor Square Appeals To Tenants Looking For Space, Amenities

 

So when the company president went looking for new digs for his executive recruitment firm, Ybor Square was high on the list.

""The kind of business we do, we're on the phone all day long,''

a place that offered an interesting view and great amenities.

Ybor Square has huge factory windows that look out onto the soon-to-be-finished trolley line.

The newly renovated office complex is surrounded by Interstate 4 and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, Hillsborough Community College, a state museum and park, two parking garages, Centro Ybor and Seventh Avenue shops, more than 80 restaurants and bars, and two hotels with a third on the way.

Being located within the historic Latin district's oldest cigar factory, where Cuban freedom fighter JoseÈ MartiÈ spoke to cigarmakers a century ago, is a plus.

""The word is slowly getting out about Ybor, now the company business whose spacious office features wood beams, 14-foot-high ceilings and black-and-white photographs of Ybor's heyday as a cigar capital.

""Ybor is known all over the country,'' "That's a great marketing tool.''

And it's one that ZOM Development Inc. of Orlando banked on when it bought the fledging complex in May 2000.

The $4 million purchase included the old factory, built in 1886, a warehouse with a restaurant in the basement and the ""stemmery'' building that still reeks of rich tobacco.

ZOM spent another $6 million renovating the complex on 13th Street and Eighth Avenue, most recently the home of bars, restaurants, antique stores, vintage clothing shops and offices.

Then it was known as Ybor Square, the brainchild of Harris Mullen, a former Tampa Tribune reporter and founder of Florida Trend Magazine. In the late 1970s, Mullen transformed the onetime world's largest cigar factory into Ybor's second-biggest attraction next to Columbia Restaurant. The push kept a fading Ybor City alive until the mid-'80s.

Today, Spaghetti Warehouse and law firms remain as original tenants.

Development Vice President Greg West is breathing new life into the buildings once again this time focusing on office space.

""Retail works best on Seventh Avenue,'' during a recent open house ""Potentially, we could have another restaurant.''

But that doesn't close the door on new opportunities. room for a dealer who specializes in office furniture, an art gallery especially in the open space that fronts the trolley line, and maybe a high-end antique dealer.

The complex is 50 percent occupied, with leasing prices under $20 a foot, Tenants rent the shell and ZOM helps them create an office space that reflects their needs.

The square attracts certain types of tenants,

""They must want lots of open space and appreciate the building.''

to discover just what what's needed, ensuring not only that the space was right for them, but that it was right for the complex.

swoons over the building's brick arches, describing them as breathtaking.

""This building used to be a maze,'' who handled the sale to ZOM. ""Before [the renovation], marketing it was difficult. You really needed to find someone with vision.''

potential tenants as law firms, insurance companies, engineering or environmental firms, maybe even architects, who appreciate wide open spaces with unique touches.

""Everybody wants to have that little spot to step outside and smoke a cigar,''

Some spots will have mini-wine coolers. Two spaces have two floors; one looks like a loft. Another space features a wood stand used by the lector, a man paid to read to cigarmakers during work.

""There is nothing generic at all about this office space,'' as antique cigar-rolling table on display that was found in the factory's crawl space by construction workers.

""Chuck got this because he's interested in [the building],. ""Its structural significance is not lost at all.''

 

 

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