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TAMPA, FL-Strategically located outparcels at or near regional malls and neighborhood shopping centers here are becoming prized assets as restaurants vie with banks, supermarkets and small businesses for developable space under 10,000 sf.

Even with Tampa Bay’s total retail inventory of 62.4 million sf, “it seems there [still] may not be enough prime retail space to accommodate every eatery looking to open or expand in the Tampa Bay area,” says John M. Crossman, senior vice president, Southeast retail investment sales, Trammell Crow Co. “As more restaurants search for space, the rental rates for prime locations are going at a premium.”

The weighted average rent for all retail in the Tampa Bay region is $13.52 per sf. Prime outparcel space can often rent for 50% more, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

National restaurant chains “will not settle for mediocre locations,” Crossman told a recent International Conference of Shopping Centers convention in Orlando. For example, he says “Chipolte [Mexican Grill Co. of Dayton, OH] has been looking in the market for 18 months and is now preparing to open the first area store on Westshore Boulevard, across from Westshore Mall.”

Pei Wei (Asian Diner Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ), another national restaurant chain, has been looking in the Tampa market for over a year and plans to open five units in 2005. Outlook restaurants “continue to grow in the market with all of its concepts, including its newest venture, Paul Lee’s,” the broker says.

Panda Express (owned by Panda Restaurant Group Inc. of Rosemead, CA) is also moving into the market and is “searching for end caps but will focus on outparcel opportunities,” Crossman says. Panera Bread Co. of St. Louis plans eight new units over the next two years in the Tampa Bay area. And Starbucks (Coffee Co. of Seattle) “will continue its growth in the market with 12 stores planned for each of the next two years.”

Not only are the restaurants competing for outparcel space with each other, but they are also competing with banks. Washington Mutual, for example, is “aggressively securing prime end cap drive-thru locations,” Crossman says. The banking company plans to open 20 locations in the area and “has competition for outparcel locations with several other banks,” the Trammell Crow executive says.

Bank of America is another major player looking for outparcels to accommodate the 165 new branches planned for 2004 and 2005, Crossman says.

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