A transportation company is moving its corporate headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Tampa's Channel district, bringing 250 employees to the urban core.

Quality Distribution Inc. has signed a 10-year lease for 45,000 square feet on the ground floor of Grand Central at Kennedy, the mixed-use development at Kennedy Boulevard and Meridian Avenue that includes condominiums and retail space.

QDI's space in Grand Central will front Kennedy Boulevard. Mercury Advisors, which developed Grand Central a decade ago, still owns the ground-floor retail space.

The Channel district has seen thousands of new residential units developed in the last five years, but there are few large office users in the neighborhood. Much of the district's office space is boutique and geared toward smaller firms.

At 45,000 square feet, the QDI relocation would be considered large anywhere in the Tampa Bay region, where most office leases are between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet. It's particularly noteworthy in downtown Tampa, where large blocks of contiguous space — anything over 25,000 square feet — are increasingly difficult to come by.

The QDI office deal means more potential residents for the multifamily buildings in the Channel district and additional customers for the restaurants that have popped up there in recent years. Bringing 250 employees to the urban core — in close proximity to restaurants and retail — helps build the urban vibrancy that business and political leaders have been working toward for years in Tampa. Beyond the restaurants that exist within Grand Central, QDI's office will be walking distance to the new Publix Super Markets Inc. store under construction at Twiggs Street and Meridian Avenue.

It's also a win for Grand Central, which had lost two large users of its ground-floor commercial space in recent years. In March, Mercury Advisors filed an eviction lawsuit against Powerhouse Gym; in early 2016, BoConcept shuttered, leaving 7,000 square feet vacant.

Trey Carswell of Avison & Young represented Mercury Advisors in the lease transaction; David Green of JLL represented QDI.

“This transaction is the largest downtown office lease deal so far in 2017,” Ken Stoltenberg, principal of Mercury Advisors, said in a statement.

The Fitzgerald, a multifamily building that recently opened across the street from QDI's new office space, is in the process of courting retail tenants.

“Quality Distribution’s move to Grand Central in the Channel District is not only a gain for Tampa’s downtown but for all of Tampa,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement. “This relocation is just another sign of Tampa’s renaissance and our ability to attract businesses that provide high-paying jobs for our ever growing city.”

The company is leaving a suburban office in the Highland Oaks area, near Interstate 75 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“We started researching relocation opportunities over a year ago and were keenly aware of the growth prospects and potential of the downtown Channel District,” QDI said in a statement attributed to CEO Gary Enzor and Joe Troy, chief financial officer. “After an exhaustive review of the Tampa Bay area, we landed on Grand Central at Kennedy as an ideal location for us and our employees, who will be in the heart of the Channel District in a truly walkable neighborhood with an array of amenities just steps from our office doors.”

Mercury Advisors — Stoltenberg and business partner Frank Bombeck — was one of the first investors in the Channel district, breaking ground on Grand Central at Kennedy in 2005. The development wrapped construction in 2007, just as the condominium market was crashing, leaving Mercury Advisors with more than 200 units to operate as apartments.

The group in 2016 made a concerted effort to sell off the 60 or so remaining condos; they're now down to 11 units and considering another condo project— a 61-unit boutique tower with units priced between $750,000 and $1.3 million.

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