(Carl Cronan is editor of RealEstate Florida.)

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Universal Health Care Group Inc., aninsurance plan management firm, has signed a lease for 31,000 sf at100 Bay Central and will move from the nearby Wachovia Plaza officetower in November. It will be the first new tenant to occupy 100Bay Central since Lutz Real Estate Investments bought the135,000-sf space in 2006.

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Universal Health, which occupies several spaces in its currentlocation, will be able to consolidate its operations in DowntownSt. Petersburg within half of a floor at 100 Bay Central, accordingto Adam Lutz, principal of Lutz Real Estate Investments. TheFarmington Hills, MI-based firm bought the building's two-flooroffice segment for $15 million.

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"They are exactly the type of quality tenant we were lookingfor," Lutz tells GlobeSt.com. "It sets a new identity for thebuilding."

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The 18-year-old building, formerly known as 100 Central Station,was previously home to Progress Energy Corp., which moved to a new16-story headquarters in Downtown St. Petersburg starting in 2006and finally vacated the last of its space in May. Lutz says thatleft the last four months to complete renovations to 100 BayCentral, which allows additional prospects to examine space therewithout an existing tenant being in the way.

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Office vacancy in Downtown St. Petersburg, which was previouslyin the single-digit range, has increased to 16.6% through the firsthalf of this year, with class A space reaching at least 22%,according to GVA Advantis. A high renewal rate and lack of newbuildings is helping to stabilize both vacancy and rents, whichcurrently average $24.53 per sf.

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Lutz says he remains bullish on the St. Pete CBD, noting thatcity officials are strong supporters of revitalization. "The coreis getting better. It's not receding like some areas," he says.

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Chad Rupp of Jones Lang LaSalle represented Universal Health inthe 100 Bay Central lease, while Claire Calzon and Jeff Tolrud ofColliers Arnold represented Lutz Real Estate.

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