Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

Interview: Franklin Street’s Brian Bern Speaks with Tampa Bay Times About Tight Retail Market

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Brian Bern, Managing Director of Retail Services in Tampa, recently spoke to the Tampa Bay Times’ Bernadette Berdychowski about findings from Franklin Street’s latest retail market report. Read excerpts from the exclusive interview below:

Tampa Bay Times: There’s a flood of new businesses wanting to set up shop in Tampa Bay, a new commercial estate report says — and it’s raising rents.

But there’s not much available space out there, Franklin Street, a Tampa-based commercial real estate firm found. Vacancy rates dropped from 4.4 percent at the start of 2021 to 3.8 percent by the end the year, the lowest point in a decade. Average rent for retail and restaurant space in the region went up 7.1 percent to $21.56 per square foot in a year, according to the firm’s fourth quarter retail report.

“I’ve been in booms before this. This one is definitely different than the ones in the past,” said Brian Bern, Franklin Street’s managing director of retail real estate. “It’s just bigger.”

In this interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Bern explains what’s driving the lack of space, the challenges that come with a hot market and which areas of Tampa Bay are growing the most. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tampa Bay Times: Why is there a shortage of commercial space in Tampa Bay?

Brian Bern: It’s hard to plan for all this. It takes a lot of time to acquire a site, budget for construction and to get it approved by the counties. And it’s hard to have the foresight from three to four years ahead that Tampa would be as hot as it is today. So it’s not that there aren’t developers that don’t want to keep adding projects and building more in the Tampa Bay area. It takes years to pull everything together.

TBT: Where is the demand coming from?

BB: It all boils down to growth. The population growth in this market is just incredible. And it’s caught the attention of retailers and businesses looking to open offices. Tampa had some amazing growth from people moving from out of state and businesses are also following. Retailers and restaurants have noticed that they’re running to catch up with the growth that’s happening here, population wise.

TBT: Why was Tampa Bay overlooked in the past?

BB: The demand was there before — it’s just accelerated. We were always considered second tier compared to other markets in the southeast. But because of the state’s business policies and the way that our taxes are, it’s become a very attractive place for businesses to want to move here and operate here and function here. Same thing for people that come and live here. The cost of living is very attractive and so is the weather.

We’ve really entered a phase where we’re on the national stage with everything from sports, to our business wins to people visiting and experiencing that we’ve been basically acting as normal as we possibly could be during the pandemic.

Read the full Tampa Bay Times interview here.

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