Want to get a sneak peek of the state of economic development in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area? Ask architects, who are working on projects long before they hit the public eye.
Right now there are a lot of positive trends, according to the 104 local architects who took part in the AIA Tampa Bay’s Voice of Architecture Economic Outlook 2021.
Seventy-one percent of the architects surveyed think the area’s development-related economy this year will be excellent or good, while 29 percent forecast it would be fair. No one predicted it would be poor or very poor.
While other areas of the country are experiencing a downturn in development activity, Tampa Bay is going strong, said Tim Coop, regional president-Tampa Bay for Hancock Whitney Bank, which sponsored the survey.
There’s a continued influx of local residents who have left large metros such as New York and Chicago, and that opens opportunities for new housing and other developments, said Peter Hauerstein, president of the board of directors for AIA Tampa Bay and an architect at Sol Design.
Some real estate sectors are stronger than others. Industrial and warehouse space is in high demand in part because of a shift to online shopping and the need for logistics operations that are close to where shoppers live.
“Housing continues to extremely strong for both single-family and multi-family home builders,” Coop said. “The migration to the region has been a driver for that. But we’re also seeing with the pandemic that people are staying in and not going out as much, so the home has become more important to a lot of folks.”
The survey results also indicate development activity in healthcare will be particularly strong. There’s less demand for projects involving office space and historic preservation, and Coop said there are question marks around retail strip centers and hotel projects.
Closer look: Workplace trends
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated workplace trends that have been underway for a while, such as working from home.
People are trying to figure out the right configuration of office space in a post-Covid world, Coop said.
“Where that settles post-recovery no one knows at this point, but you may see office space located more in the suburbs or close to neighborhoods where employees live,” Coop said.
People want to work together but also enjoy working at home, so the key will be finding a balance, Hauerstein said.
Coop said there’s plenty of financial backing for anticipated projects.
“You’ve got a lot of investor capital out there that’s seeking a place to land. You’ve also got bank capital. Banks are sitting on a lot of deposits right now and loan demand has been slow, so putting those deposits to work in good earning assets such as loans is something we’re very much looking to do,” Coop said.
The expected strength in development activity is likely to boost revenue at architectural firms. Eighty-six percent of the architects surveyed expect revenue growth in 2021, and one-third of those surveyed expected robust growth with revenue up 10 percent or more.
The outlook for the Tampa-St. Pete area outpaces the outlook for the South region as a whole, based on the Architecture Billing Index.
More than half of the local architects surveyed expect their company to hire more employees in 2021, with 20 percent say they will not be hiring this year. But talent is tight and professionals are always in high demand.
Sol Design focuses on the work atmosphere to attract new employees.
“We provide a happy atmosphere,” Hauerstein said. “Money is obviously an issue, but with the younger architects in their 20s and 30s, work-life balance is a huge thing. Being part of a family and being recognized is really important.”
For more insight on the survey, AIA Tampa Bay has assembled a panel representing the banking, architecture, retail development and planning fields who will interpret the results. Their discussion is open to the public via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11. Registration is available here.