by Art Levy
Updated 5 yearss ago
New owner Dennis Udwin upgraded the building's interior, including the rotunda. [Photo: Willie J. Allen Jr./Tampa Bay Times]
The Beer Can
For years, the Rivergate Tower, designed by renowned architect Harry Wolf, was known as the "beer can building," but its round shape has nothing to do with beer cans. Rather, the architect's intent was to symbolize a lighthouse. In that spirit, the new owners have reinstalled the beacon lights on the roof. [Photo: Scott McIntyre/Tampa Bay Times]
It was also a relative bargain.
Opened in 1988, the one-time headquarters of NCNB bank cost $150 million to build. In-Rel got it at a foreclosure sale last year for $22 million. By then, though, the building was more faded landmark than icon. Occupancy had fallen to 50%, and some tenants with expiring leases indicated they did not plan to renew.
Since the purchase, In-Rel has invested more than $1 million in the building, including spiffing up the lobby and moving In-Rel's regional offices into what used to be the bank's vault. New tenants include the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and a Kahwa Cafe coffee shop. Udwin says occupancy is up to 57%. He expects 80% of the building will be leased within two years.
He says the building will also get a boost from its location within Tampa's burgeoning Hillsborough River arts district, where the tower overlooks the Tampa Museum of Art, the Glazer Children's Museum, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Dennis Udwin. [Photo: Willie J. Allen Jr./Tampa Bay Times]