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Inside the lease agreement for the new Innovation Center

Veronica Brezina



A rendering of Tampa Bay Innovation Center at 4th Street South and 11th Avenue. All images provided.

Next week, Pinellas County is expected to sign off on a master lease and operations agreement, handing the keys of its long-planned startup incubator hub to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center. 

The center, currently under construction at the southwest corner of 4th Street South and 11th Avenue, will be a 45,000-square-foot facility that will have programming and co-working space for startups.

The county was awarded a Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to construct the $16 million-plus business incubator, which will be managed by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center through its not-for-profit corporation, STAR-TEC.

On March 28, the Pinellas County Commissioners will review the master lease and operations agreement between STAR-TEC and the Pinellas County Industrial Development Authority, an industrial development authority created by Pinellas County, for the center. 

Once executed, the lease term will commence Oct. 1 and will terminate Sept. 30, 2033. STAR-TEC may request up to four, five-year additional successive terms, according to the drafted agreement. 

STAR-TEC will collect all rental revenue generated from the property and operations. Revenue, including any funding, will be managed in a separate account. 

The early talks 

The concept for a new incubator formed in 2013 through a county-initiated feasibility study, which ultimately recommended that a 40,000-50,000 square-foot mixed-use business incubator facility was crucial to support local research, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the technology, life sciences, marine sciences and/or advanced manufacturing. 

The county was then able to acquire a vacant parcel from the City of St. Petersburg and funds to build the center. Through a request for Letters of Interest (LOI) from organizations to operate the incubator, STAR-TEC was selected as the most appropriate responder. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was reached in 2016 and was last amended in 2022. 

A look at the numbers 

  • For the first operating year, the county will pay $175,000.
  • For the period from Oct. 1, 2024 through Sept. 30, 2025, the county will pay $125,000.
  • For the period from Oct. 1, 2025 through Sept. 30, 2026, the county will pay $100,000.
  • ARK Investment Management founder and CEO Cathie Wood committed $2 million, which granted ARK naming rights of the center for a 30-year period. The $2 million is solely dedicated for the construction of the center. 

STAR-TEC will have the sole right and authority to manage, operate, negotiate, execute, enter into and administer any and all licenses, occupancy agreements, subleases, advertising agreements and supplier agreements and supervise the property, according to county documents. 

When it opens this year, it will have 30,000 square feet on the first floor for incubator companies. ARK Research will be located in the anchor tenant space, and the ARK Foundation will have an office on the third floor with TBIC, according to Ken Evans, the managing director at TBIC.

The center will also have 2,000 square feet for a prototyping lab, a 200-person event space, a café, two dedicated classrooms and podcast studios.

Per the agreement, STAR-TEC will provide the county its annual performance plan, information regarding tenants including the graduates from its programs, and the capital, private investment and jobs created.

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