St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

New Tampa: MCI to pay landlord $14.5-million

Highwoods Properties has received a portion in cash and awaits new tenants in its New Tampa office park.

RODNEY THRASH
Published October 22, 2004

NEW TAMPA - Twenty-one months of legal wrangling between Highwoods Properties and WorldCom has ended.

MCI, formerly known as WorldCom, must pay Highwoods $14.5-million as part of a settlement.

WorldCom leased 800,000 square feet in the former Intermedia Communications office park in New Tampa for nearly two years before filing for bankruptcy in July 2002. It opted out of a $14.3-million lease, which bankruptcy law allowed. But as property owner, Highwoods could legally file a claim against WorldCom, and did.

MCI has already paid $8.6-million in cash toward the settlement, Highwoods said in a statement. It has agreed to give 344,000 shares of stock to Highwoods to pay the rest of the debt. The stock is worth $5.9-million.

The office park has been vacant since WorldCom rejected the lease, but it won't be empty for long. One of the largest wireless providers announced it is moving in.

VoiceStream PCS Holding LLC, which operates as T-Mobile, has signed a 10-year lease that goes into effect Dec. 1. Highwoods senior vice president Steve Meyers would not discuss terms of the lease, but he said T-Mobile will occupy 85,000 square feet.

T-Mobile already has an office on Martin Luther King Boulevard in a complex also owned by Highwoods. The 570 employees based at that 120,000-square-foot complex will move to New Tampa late this year or early next year, said T-Mobile spokesman Bryan Zidar. T-Mobile is the second national company to announce plans to move into the New Tampa site in the past four months. In June, Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., a Manhattan financial services organization, bought 176,000 square feet of space in the complex. DTCC paid $19.7-million for the building and 3 acres. By 2007, 500 employees are expected to move in.

With T-Mobile and DTCC signing on as tenants, more than 550,000 square feet remains.

"We have proposals out to a variety of users," Meyers said. "We're talking to users in financial services, telecommunications, technology and government."

- Rodney Thrash can be reached at 813 269-5313 or rthrash@sptimes.com

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.