Downtown St. Pete may see its first significant office development in 12 years

Downtown St. Pete may get its first new office building in over a decade if the city accepts an offer from UPC Insurance to expand it’s headquarters to a lot along 1st Avenue South. The city has long discussed offering Jabil this site in an attempt to lure them into building a new corporate headquarters in Downtown St. Pete. However, when Jabil ultimately chose to rebuild and expand its existing office complex in North St. Pete, UPC took notice and began exploring plans of their own. 

On July 19, 2018, the City of St. Pete received a letter from UPC Insurance stating their desire and intent to acquire the entire 800 block of 1st Avenue South for the purposes of constructing and occupying a new corporate headquarters. 

The empty lot at 800 1st Ave S that UPC Insurance has proposed offices, retail, and possibly a hotel.

UPC Insurance currently owns a 42,000 square foot building across the street at 800 2nd Avenue South, which formerly housed the Downtown St. Petersburg AAA office, as well as a smaller 8,000 square foot building at 724 2nd Avenue South. They also currently lease a parking lot from the city which is adjacent to their 800 2nd Avenue South building.

Since its founding in 1999, UPC Insurance has grown to over 250 employees and requires additional space for the more than 300 employees it plans to hire over the next few years. To help accommodate this growth, UPC is hoping to build a 150,000 square foot office building along with a 500 space parking garage immediately north of its existing building. 

The 800 block of 1st Avenue South is currently a dirt lot owned by the city and is leased for short term and long term parking on a per spot basis.  This block, along with many of the surrounding blocks, use to be the heart of the Webb’s City emporium store and has remained largely unused or vacant since the store closed in 1979.

In a four page letter to the city, UPC lays out its needs and terms it believes will help enable the company to continue growing in Downtown St. Pete, as well as a conceptual plan for the block. In addition to a 150,000 square foot office building fronting Dr. MLK Jr Street, UPC Insurance has proposed a possible hotel which could front 8th Street. The middle of the block would house their 500-space parking garage as well as retail space along 1st and 2nd Street South.

Site plan proposed by UPC Insurance for 800 1st Ave South in Downtown St. Pete

As well as providing parking for the company, UPC also sees the availability for the parking garage to service the public on weekends and evenings to support the EDGE District and surrounding neighborhoods.

While these plans are very preliminary, it remains to be seen if the city will move forward. As a result of UPC’s interest in the site, and pursuant to Florida Statutes, the city must invite additional alternative proposals from private developers or anyone interested in the lease or purchase of the site. All proposals that are compatible with the Intown Redevelopment Area plan and delivered no later than 10AM on Wednesday August 29, 2018 will be considered. The city will make a decision whether to move forward once all proposals have been reviewed.

Nevertheless, UPC’s vision for the site represents a significant step for Downtown St. Pete in offering the potential for a major office development as well as the opportunity to add 300 high-paying jobs to the area.

For additional detail on UPC’s proposal, read their offer letter here

Correction: The original version of this article quoted the UPC Insurance Letter of Intent which stated that this would be the first office building in Downtown St. Pete in 28 years. However, upon further review, the Duke Energy office building located at 299 1st Ave N was constructed in 2006. The article has been updated to reflect that this would be the first major office development in 12 years, not 28.