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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

LAKELAND, FL-Interstate Commerce Park has signed Gtech Corp. to a 98,000-sf lease in one of its new buildings under construction along Interstate 4. The Providence, RI-based company is expanding its local operations to produce scratch-off tickets for the Florida Lottery.

Neither Gtech nor the park’s owner, BecKryger Capital Partners, will confirm the lease signing, but industrial brokers familiar with the negotiations tell GlobeSt.com that the company will move into the park’s new Building 400 upon its completion later this year. Gtech has a similar operation in nearby Plant City, FL, and is expected to continue those operations, the brokers say.

Gtech, which is owned by Italian-based Lottomatica, has had a contract with the Florida Lottery for more than three years to produce its instant-win cardboard tickets, which commonly carry a powdered coating that can be scratched away with a coin to reveal the holder’s winnings. The Plant City facility, which has at least 50 employees, has an annual production capacity of more than three billion tickets.

The new lease effectively makes Gtech the first manufacturing operation at Interstate Commerce Park, marking a return to its roots. The park originated in the early 1960s as a major citrus processing operation for Kraft Foods Inc., which made ready-to-eat orange and grapefruit pieces sealed in glass jars.

Kraft’s plant was ultimately converted for processing orange juice concentrate after the market for jarred fruit went away. Another juice maker operated the plant between 1997 and 2000, after which it stood dormant until BecKryger assembled the entire 137-acre property near Polk Parkway for $1.5 million between 2002 and 2006.

Over the last two years, BecKryger has refurbished the existing 209,000-sf plant and is adding at least 600,000 sf in various phases, including the 153,000-sf Building 400 now under way. The landlord also repainted the park’s 128-foot, 150,000-gallon water tower, which used to resemble a giant orange on a pedestal and is the tallest structure visible on I-4 in Lakeland.Efforts to lease Interstate Commerce Park have been highly successful, with Pepsi Bottling Co. signing a lease earlier this year for a 109,200-sf regional dispensing machine refurbishing facility. Grubb & Ellis Commercial Florida is the park’s leasing agent.

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