Continuing a streak of property purchases in downtown Pensacola, developer Quint Studer is under contract to purchase one of Northwest Florida’s largest office buildings.
On Wednesday, Studer and his wife Rishy announced their intent to buy the 10-story office tower at 220 West Garden Street, also known as the SunTrust Building after the building’s most recent major tenant.
Studer said Wednesday that he and Rishy had been planning for years to create a community-oriented space where citizens can gather, share ideas, and solve issues to create a better quality of life.
The purchase comes after a failed bid in 2015 to build Studer’s planned Center for Entrepreneurship at the Community Maritime Park along the downtown waterfront. That project was rejected by city officials after lease negotiations failed between the city and Studer. According to Studer, since that time, he has traveled, researched, and engaged architects to look at other examples of multi-use community facilities.
“I felt the rejection of the UWF Center for Entrepreneurship and conference center at the Maritime Park was a real loss for the community,” said Studer. “As it turns out, the SunTrust building, while not accomplishing all of what we planned at the Maritime Park, might accomplish some of it.”
The SunTrust building, which is currently vacant on the bottom two floors, has seen a steep decline in its occupancy over the last decade. Currently, the building is roughly half-occupied, well below the 95% occupancy rate of the nearby Coastal Bank and Trust Tower and similar class A office buildings in the area.
The tower boasts a large first-floor atrium which Studer said could be used as a social area and cafe, as well as a large office suite that could be used for concerts, lectures, and conference breakout sessions. Studer also cited the outdoor plaza as a place for community gatherings, musical events, and small festivals. Studer also said the exterior wall of the building could be utilized for screening outdoor movies, digital art, or other seasonal light displays.
“We have researched this property quite a bit, as have others,” said Studer. “There are already a good group of tenant businesses here, and our first job is to meet with those tenants and make this a great place for them to work. After that, we will begin to reconfigure the bottom two floors and create programming and activities to engage the community.”
Studer said he hopes to complete the due diligence on the building and close sometime in the next 60 days. A purchase price has not been disclosed.