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Tampa Bay Retail’s New Direction Includes Walkable Developments

Tampa Bay area’s retail landscape is beginning to change as a slew of new mixed-use walkable developments come online. A unique project is Westshore Marina District, a 52-acre mixed-use community that is helping transform South Tampa. Fort Lauderdale-based BTI Partners is the master developer of the project. GlobeSt sat down with their Vice President of Retail Development Britney Mroczkowski to learn more about Tampa’s evolving retail market.

What is fueling the demand for retail in the Tampa Bay market?

Britney Mroczkowski: There are a number of factors at play in the Tampa Bay market. Business fundamentals remain strong which has helped attract new residents to the area and raise income levels. In fact, Tampa is ranked as one of the friendliest business areas in the state, according to a Colliers retail report. The report highlights that Tampa’s MSA has a 3.3 percent unemployment rate compared to the entire state Florida, which has an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. Furthermore, the Tampa Bay market added more than 27,000 new private-sector jobs between Oct. 2016-2017, accounting for a total year-over-year increase of 2.3 percent, according to Colliers. Building permits for single-family homes climbed 26 percent during the same time frame, while rental rates for multifamily homes saw year-over-year increases of 12 percent. In addition to all that growth, Tampa International Airport’s passenger numbers are growing rapidly with more than 1.3 million passengers over the previous fiscal year.

When you see this type of growth in a community, the demand for new retail such as coffee shops, casual dining, a farmers market and so forth becomes a necessity. When BTI Partners, entered the Tampa Bay market a few years ago, our Managing Partner, Noah Breakstone, had the vision to build an exciting mixed-use, waterfront & marina community that had functional live-work-play elements. That strategy is paying off. Our 52-acre, Westshore Marina District, which we are developing at the corner of S West Shore Blvd and W Gandy Blvd on Old Tampa Bay across from St. Petersburg, is receiving a strong number of inquiries from retail concepts looking for the best on-street retail opportunities. We just launched leasing for 70,000 square feet of retail and office space that will serve the nearly 2,400 new homes now being built on or adjacent to our waterfront community. The fact that many of the developers building within our mixed-use master planned community have a great track record, including Related Group and WCI Communities, and our firm, BTI Partners, developing 3 condo towers, Marina Pointe, has helped us attract a strong interest from retailers. They want to make sure the rooftops will be in place when they open shop.

Compared to other major Florida Cities, how is the Tampa Bay retail landscape different?

The Tampa’s retail market is very different from the Orlando and Maimi markets. For example, Orlando’s retail market is largely based on tourism, providing entertainment options for tourists visiting all of the city’s theme parks. In Miami, you often find high-end retailers targeting international visitors who are shopping for either designer or discount merchandise, such as shoes, clothes and purses. Tampa’s retail market is unique in that it focuses on meeting the demand from the local community. In Tampa, we are just now beginning to see the rise of mixed-use walkable communities, including BTI Partners’ Westshore Marina District and Vinik’s Water Street. Tampa is not a walkable city, so these small walkable communities are creating new retail & restaurant destinations for new and trendy concepts. Westshore Marina District will still have parking at 6 spaces per thousand square feet and throughout site, but we will be a walkable community similar to Hyde Park. In addition to residential and retail, we will also have walking trails and three parks on the water that will be open to the public. We will not only be a place where people can live, shop and dine, but also a destination for Tampa Bay residents.

We are seeing a new trend of tenants downsizing as a result of ecommerce. How is that impacting the design of new retail space?

Westshore Marina District will have approximately 70,000 square feet of retail space, which is no small amount in a retail environment that is increasingly challenged by ecommerce. To ensure that our retail space is relevant in the changing retail market, we have designed spaces with smaller footprints. That way, retailers will have the flexibility to either occupy small spaces or combine several spaces to create a much larger space tailored to their needs. By designing spaces with smaller footprints, this will allow us to accommodate specialty and boutique retail tenants, such as wine bars, quick service restaurants, unique fitness concepts, high-end restaurants and a gourmet market. We will bring in retailers that will meet the needs of our customers, residents who are living in and around our development, and boaters, since we will have a 150-slip marina with access to Tampa Bay.

Since our retail town center will be serving an area that is experiencing fast growth, we will offer a variety of dining options, including formal dining, quick-service restaurants, and eateries focused on delivery and take out. Smaller footprints will allow us more restaurant options rather than just 1 to 2 larger restaurant concepts. BTI’s design is also taking into account the growing popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, so our site plan carves out an area specifically for patrons to be picked up and dropped off.

What are hot topics in retail and how does Tampa relate to them?

Tampa is trending toward retail that is local and chef-inspired for restaurants versus larger national chains. One session at ICSC will focus on trendy versus national retailers and that conversation is very important for Tampa. This area is seeing a number of local restauranteurs entering the market with several different concepts. These chef-driven concepts are becoming more popular than traditional national restaurant chains. However, this trend comes with some concern over credit-worthiness and long-term reliability. Another topic of discussion will focus on new developments in Florida and that is relevant to Tampa, which is seeing a number of mixed-used communities, such as Westshore Marina District, changing the city’s retail landscape.

With retail market changing, what are some new investment opportunities opening up?

We are seeing more mixed-use projects and retail becoming more experiential. A lot of BTI’s investment is going towards the creation of amenities that will improve the quality of life of our residents and those shopping at Westshore Marina District. For example, we have gone the extra mile to create walking trails, build a marina, and design areas for residents and patrons to use ride-sharing services. We want to encourage people to leave their cars at home and use other means of getting around when shopping or going to restaurants. The concept of building a city within a city is gaining momentum among specialty retailers. Our company is actively looking at new development opportunities along both the East and West coasts of Florida to duplicate the success that BTI Partners is having with Tampa’s newest project, the Westshore Marina District.