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With Eyes On Uncertain Market, Tampa CRE Players Get Creative

One of Catamount’s completed projects: A 278K SF spec warehouse in Ruskin, FL.

Tampa Bay’s build-to-rent market has grown by 156% since 2017, making it one of the nation's largest and most active BTR markets. In the industrial sector, the area has seen strong demand from tenants, with more than 5.7M SF of new development delivered last year alone. 

And while the national office sector has experienced turbulence, Tampa’s Hillsborough County office market ended 2023 with positive net absorption of 29,700 SF — one of fewer than 15 markets in the country to witness positive absorption. 

Even though Tampa is one of the strongest CRE markets in Florida, economic uncertainty has impacted the market in terms of investment volume, sales, leasing activity and more.

“Most spec developments have been put on a slight hold because everyone is still trying to decipher where the market is heading,” said Ken Thomas, project executive at Catamount Constructors, a 100% employee-owned general contracting and construction management firm with offices in Florida, Texas, Colorado and Georgia. “Florida has historically been a strong economy, so it will continue to persevere through changing market trends.”

Catamount Project Executive Ken Thomas

Thomas will speak at Bisnow’s Tampa Bay Area State of the Market event on March 6 alongside other leading Tampa Bay CRE professionals. Register here

Bisnow spoke with Thomas, along with Stephanie Martinez, vice president of industrial, and Rick Rodman, vice president of business development/national industrial at Catamount Constructors, to learn more about the key development trends the area is witnessing, what’s driving market demand and where the market is heading.

Catamount's Vice President of Industrial Stephanie Martinez
Catamount Vice President of Business Development Rick Rodman

Bisnow: What trends have you noticed in the Tampa CRE market? 

Thomas: In Tampa, we're a bit landlocked with developments built over the past 20 years. Due to this, we're noticing a lot of redevelopments and a lot of eyes on existing spaces with tenant improvement opportunities. It's a combination of out-of-state and local developers who are trying to get deals done in a highly attractive market for developers in every market

We're starting to see a lot more development into outer Tampa Bay markets, including Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County and out towards Lakeland. Polk County and the I-4 corridor have always been heavily developed with industrial space, especially over the past 20 years. We’re also noticing that designs are getting more creative in the small bay, last-mile facilities that we're seeing across Tampa.

Catamount is currently building this two-building industrial development in Florida, totaling 354K SF.

Bisnow: What are the main drivers behind the market’s growth and demand?

Thomas: Florida is still the fastest-growing state in the country, and Tampa is seeing major growth with more companies and residents moving to the area. 

What happens in South Florida will make its way up to Central Florida and North Florida. Everybody watches their markets across the state, and South Florida tends to set a precedent. We're running low on land to build new buildings and industrial developments, so we’re keeping a close eye on Florida’s other main markets to see where we're going to be in the next five to 10 years.

Economic development teams across Central and North Florida are also being more intentional in the types of end users they want to attract — the Space Coast focus in East Florida, the redevelopment of Jacksonville’s deepwater port and Tampa redeveloping into a hub for technology.

Rodman: Some of the market’s growth is based on people moving into Florida in the last couple of years out of northern states and California. That demographic always helps drive growth.

We're still seeing the build-to-suit deals happening because they have their own capital. Florida has always had a strong economy, but we're seeing a lot of incentives being offered, which is bringing end users to the state. I think that's been a big driver in Florida's growth.

Martinez: In South Florida, we're starting to see more movement up north towards the Treasure Coast. Given the high cost of land, it's making it more difficult to pencil deals in South Florida. The lack of land availability is also bringing businesses further north from the South Florida market, driving more demand for the Tampa market.

JLL reported that this is the 16th consecutive quarter that Tampa has been sub-5% on industrial vacancy rates. I think we're going to continue to see that growth in Tampa Bay and the surrounding areas.

A recently completed 664K SF industrial property in Florida

Bisnow: How will your new office in Tampa enable the firm to achieve its growth goals in Florida and get deals to pencil?

Martinez: We've been working in Florida for over 15 years. The Southeast in general has always been a very active market for us. We've been averaging about $100M in revenue just in the Florida market for the past five years. 

We were receiving a lot of feedback from potential clients that they would consider partnering with Catamount on more opportunities if we had a Florida office. We made the decision last year to open our Tampa office to better serve our existing relationships and new clients.

We're budgeting deals eight to 10 months before there's ever a shovel in the ground. One of the advantages that Catamount brings to the table is our strong partnerships with the subcontractor market. Their feedback and knowledge of the Florida market conditions is key when we build budgets for these projects.  

Rodman: We have always liked the Florida region as a company. You have several ports that service the state and the Southeast United States, so the runway for industrial work remains positive.

At Catamount, we're running budgets weekly on industrial buildings and sites. And because the site usually makes or breaks the deal, we excel at getting creative in our approach to site analysis. How a building is oriented on a site, minimizing dirt issues, creativity on stormwater systems. That's what it takes right now to get these deals done.

The recently completed 664K SF industrial property in Florida

Bisnow: Do you have any notable projects in the Tampa area?

Thomas: We're working on several deals right now. We are underway on a 21K SF TI and building addition project with The Theo Group in Tampa. We recently built a 278K SF speculative warehouse for an Atlanta-based developer in Ruskin, and installing electric vehicle chargers at two existing distribution facilities. We are actively pursuing a couple of new speculative and build-to-suit developments. Our projects in the region have largely been on the outskirts of the greater Tampa Bay area in Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties.  

One of Catamount’s completed industrial warehouses in North Florida.

Bisnow: What will this year and the next look like for Tampa Bay CRE? 

Thomas: Over the past year as developments became harder to close, most were put on hold to wait on more favorable construction costs or better interest rates. We are seeing a revitalization of most of those projects and several new ones come through due to the Tampa area’s net positive absorption rate despite the large amounts of specs that delivered in 2023 and are delivering through Q2 2024.

This year, we'll continue to see strong leasing activity. Although build-to-suits are the preferred model at the moment, we are still seeing spec developments come through the greater Tampa Bay area both for traditional dry storage and cold storage developments. Catamount is ready to serve our clients in the Tampa Bay area and across the country.

This article was produced in collaboration between Catamount Constructors and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to