(Carl Cronan is editor of RealEstateFlorida.)

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TAMPA, FL-MetLife Inc. says work on its first office building atthe MetWest International mixed-use development is on schedule toopen early next year. Skanska USA Building Inc., general contractorfor the entire $200-million project, will be the building's firsttenant, leasing 20,226 sf.

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A retail village being built near the ten-story MetWest Onebuilding is also well under way and will open next spring,according to executives with MetLife Real Estate Investors. Boththe initial office and retail segments are getting plenty ofattention from prospective tenants and brokers as they continue totake shape along Boy Scout Boulevard, in Tampa's Westshore businessdistrict.

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"We're trying to bring some names that aren't currently in themarket," Chuck Davis, MetLife's regional director in Tampa, tellsGlobeSt.com. He points out that MetWest's highly visible locationis generating interest despite current national economic conditionsthat might otherwise hinder expansions or relocations.

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MetLife is redeveloping the 32-acre site near TampaInternational Airport that was previously the insurance andfinancial services giant's regional headquarters dating back to theearly 1970s. Building plans call for up to a million sf of class Aoffice space, including the initial 250,000-sf speculativebuilding; 74,200 sf of retail and restaurant space; a 260-roomupscale hotel, currently in the design phase; and 254apartments.

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Skanska USA, one of the Tampa Bay market's largest contractors,will relocate from its current offices at 4950 W. Kennedy Blvd.John Cammack, the firm's executive vice president and area generalmanager, says the new building's plan to seek LEED certificationfits well with its own sustainability goals.

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Davis says he isn't concerned about competition from othernearby new buildings in Westshore, since MetWest is attempting tocreate a separate identity from standalone office space. "When youadd all of those components together, it separates us from thecrowd," he says.

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