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ORLANDO-Although an estimated 505,000 sf of new class A office product is expected to surface Downtown at various periods in 2006, that isn’t soon enough for several new area startup banks, bank officials and Downtown brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

Ground-floor Downtown space in recently constructed or existing buildings is scarce and getting scarcer, brokers in the field tell GlobeSt.com. “It’s as if a herd of elephants suddenly descended on the central business district and demanded great pools of water all at the same time,” Dean Fritchen, a senior associate in the Winter Park office of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT, tells GlobeSt.com.

In the tightest race of all for suitable space, newly formed Florida Bank of Commerce has beaten out four rivals after a year of negotiations to occupy a five-story, 100,000-sf building at Robinson Street and Magnolia Avenue. Area brokers tell GlobeSt.com the bank will probably be paying a premium rent of $28 per sf. The average asking class A rent, full service, is $23.70 per sf, according to the Orlando office of Colliers Arnold.

But even at a premium rent, Florida Bank of Commerce has to wait until December to take over the space. That’s when another relatively new bank, Fifth Third Bank, plans to relocate to the 200,000-sf Eola Plaza building at Robinson Street and Rosalind Avenue. Still another new bank, South Bank of Florida, has opened its offices in an estimated 12,000 sf of space at 519 N. Magnolia Ave., area brokers following the torrid space race among new banks, tell Globest.com.

Aware of the demand, Longwood developer Deno Dikeou has submitted preliminary plans to the City of Orlando for an estimated $7-million, 34,652-sf bank building on the northeast corner of Orange Avenue and Robinson Street. A new bank, which the developer declined to identify, would occupy at least 20,000 sf of ground-floor space. Brokers speculate Florida Capital Bank, a subsidiary of Florida Capital Group Inc. of Jacksonville, is first in line for Dikeou’s space.

“Downtown Orlando office space remains highly sought after,” says Stan J. Sarnowski, Colliers Arnold’s director of market analytics and geographic information systems. “Vacancies are absorbed relatively fast and [new] construction is evident Downtown, as demand remains high.” The direct vacancy level among the CBD’s 182 buildings is 9.8%, the submarket’s best performance in the last five quarters, according to Sarnowski’s statistics.

Marketing sources for various banks in the area tell GlobeSt.com the demand for space was heightened this year after 17 banking groups applied for state charters. In 1998, 26 banking groups applied for charters, a record for metro Orlando.

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