Business park guru finds niche near Gandy
By SHARON L. BOND
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- The landlord to a number of businesses in the northern end of the city -- companies as varied as vending machine stockers and manufacturers of jet parts -- is a three-person operation, Grady Pridgen Inc.
"We're a virtual company," owner Grady Pridgen said. "We're like a movie production unit. We're able to hire the best talent for each aspect of the job. We put the deal together and make it happen."
The commercial/industrial real estate service company handles three business parks in the Gateway area, two of which it developed on speculation and which now are fully leased.
Gateway Business Park at Gandy Boulevard -- visible from Interstate 275 N -- is the newest. The 40-acre park is home to Jabil Circuit Inc., the largest tenant. Jabil is an international electronics manufacturer that recently doubled its manufacturing space there. It has several thousand workers at the park.
Everfill, a pharmaceutical company, also is a tenant as is Compass Group, which runs 75 refrigeration trucks that fill thousands of vending machines daily across the Tampa Bay area, Pridgen said.
Pridgen plans two more 100,000-square-foot buildings at Gateway Business Park. One should be complete next year. "As soon as that one is full, we'll start on the next one."
Also developed and now leased by Pridgen is Gateway Business Centre, a small piece of Gateway Centre Business Park. It also is at I-275 and Gandy Boulevard on 28th Street N. Lockheed Martin, Hunter Douglas Fabrication Co., NCS Healthcare, Federal Express and Airborne Express are among Pridgen's tenants on the 40-acre spot.
Lockheed Martin is a precision aluminium fabrication plant and makes approximately 4,000 parts for various airplanes, including the F-16 jet, Pridgen said.
"We had planned to build two buildings, but Lockheed Martin said (they) would like to make the two into one building," Pridgen said. "So we built it to their specifications and leased it back to them."
Pridgen manages a third property, Joe's Creek Industrial Park, on the east side of U.S. 19 at 44th Avenue N. With 25 buildings, it is the largest of the industrial parks that Pridgen manages. Joe's Creek was built in the late 1950s, has been spruced up and is 90 percent leased. Tenants include Essilor of America, an optical lens maker; Pepsi; Kane's Furniture and Alpha Tile, among others.
Miami Beach developer David Fleeman owns the three parks in partnerships with other members of his family, Pridgen said. After Fleeman acquired Joe's Creek Industrial in a property trade, Pridgen was hired to manage it.
That was 10 years ago. Along the way, Gateway became the hot area for new companies coming to the Tampa Bay area because of its central location to interstates traveling to St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater and Tampa International Airport.
As the area took off, Pridgen, with Fleeman's backing, developed the two Gateway parks. Other companies are doing the same in the area. Echelon development company began and still is developing the Carillon business park. That park includes a residential element. None of Pridgen's parks do.
However, Pridgen has two residential projects in the Gateway area planned: a 150-unit luxury apartment complex and 100 single-family homes on a waterfront tract.
Grady Pridgen Inc. gets its money from property management and fees for marketing, development supervision and construction management. Pridgen said the company has about $25-million in leases and sales annually. In the past three years, the company has built a million square feet, he said.
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