About three years ago, before COVID-19, social distancing and pandemics had entered the lexicon, two Manhattan brothers decided they wanted to take a new approach to the office building industry.
Rather than buying a building, keeping it clean and well-maintained, and running it, they wanted to recreate the space into something the modern worker craves.
The brothers – Joshua and Ari Sason and their partner David Rottenberg – could not have known that within a year office life as we knew it and the way we work would be turned upside down, leaving companies to not only reinvent the way how they interact with employees, but also how they use their space.
This change played into their hands.
Joshua, Ari and Rottenberg run the Sason Organization, a real estate investment company in New York. They recently purchased The Bridge building in Tampa, formerly known as Presidents Plaza II, at 4904 Eisenhower Blvd. They plan to spend $4.5 million to completely transform it, implementing their ownership model by creating a space they believe is suitable for today’s employees. The deal and others push the company’s investment in the Tampa area, in total, to nearly $30 million.
With this investment, Sason buys older buildings in good condition and modernizes them. Going far beyond a fresh coat of paint, they create indoor/outdoor spaces and upgrade amenities and technology. This includes bringing in natural materials, light woods and “comfortable and inviting” luxury furnishings, as well as emphasizing health and well-being by upgrading and integrating fitness centers into buildings that often gather dust.
According to the company, this will make its buildings a destination for businesses and tenants looking for space that is more than a traditional office.
Sason currently owns five buildings in the Tampa area and is looking to expand statewide. He also has an ongoing deal in Miami and is looking at properties in Palm Beach. In total, the company owns approximately two million square feet in nine states.
All three partners are in their early to mid-30s and the brothers grew up in real estate – their father is a New York builder.
Joshua, CEO of the Sason Organization, said when they launched about three years ago, they identified the office sector as undercapitalized because “huge dollars” were flowing into multi-family, residential and industrial properties. This was before COVID, which only exacerbated the dynamic.
It gave the company a workspace.
Joshua says Sason’s approach is to create an experience for the worker by providing “usable amenities” that make the space feel more like a hotel than an office. This, says Joshua, allows tenants “to feel like they’re going to a special place when they walk into the workplace.”
“Honestly, we’re kind of against the grain, that’s the way we think about things,” he says. “It has made us much more excited about the opportunity to acquire great office assets at great prices and really reposition them for the work of the future.”
For Joshua, it’s also personally satisfying. Before starting the Sason organization, he ran a hedge fund called Magna. He’s also a musician, and the real estate industry, especially given what the company does, allows him to tap into his artistic side, which is rewarding both personally and professionally.
Sason targeted Tampa for the same reason other out-of-state investors have had in recent years.
The company loves what’s happening downtown with Water Street Tampa, and that officials are embracing commercial real estate growth and being business friendly.
But there is also a large and ever-growing population of young professionals who view work differently than older generations. Based on these demographics, “where we focus our time and energy, we identified Tampa and the greater Tampa area as a place we want him to invest about three years ago.”
The Sason Organization first came to Tampa in August 2020, when it purchased property in the Sabal Park Industrial Park at 3804 Coconut Palm Dr. The nearly 41,000 square foot building, which has glass reflecting all around, is called the glass house in Cocotier. Sason paid $3.5 million according to Hillsborough County property records.
“We bought it vacant, and that was the heart of COVID,” Joshua says. “People thought we were a little off our rocker.”
This purchase was followed in December 2020 by the purchase of a second property in Sabal Park, at 3812 Coconut Palm Dr. The company paid $2.8 million for the 23,664 square foot building.
These purchases, so early in the implementation of its model, helped the three partners begin to understand what tenants were looking for in the new world of COVID and what the future of work looks like. With this in mind, they took a “complete repositioning approach,” sprucing up both properties with the aim of making them the preeminent buildings in the industrial park.
Together, Sabal Park’s 64,664 square feet are 97% leased today. (The company bought a third property in the industrial park last year but quickly sold it.)
“Frankly, we’re upsetting by nature, that’s the way we think about things.” Joshua Sason, CEO and Director, Sason Organization.
About a year after Tampa’s first purchase, the Sason organization purchased a 10,927 square foot building at 28059 U.S. Highway 19 in Clearwater. He paid $4 million according to Pinellas County property records.
The company is currently renovating this property which, when complete, will have a new lobby, new common areas, new hallways and upgraded elevators. “It will indeed be almost a new asset,” says Joshua.
But the centerpiece of Sason Organization’s Tampa portfolio is its latest acquisition: The Bridge. The 98,105-square-foot building was built in 1985 and recently received $650,000 worth of upgrades, including an HVAC upgrade, renovated restrooms, and re-roofing.
The Sason organization bought the building at the end of May. According to public records, he paid $99,575 in documentary stamps, bringing the sale price to around $14.22 million. The company plans to spend $4.5 million to renovate the property.
The bridge is in good condition and has been well managed and maintained over the years, but Joshua says it has “genuine 80s vintage appeal as it looks today”.
“So we’re taking this asset and bringing it into the modern era – complete facade, redevelopment and restoration.”
The plan is to modernize the building and give it a whole new feel as you enter by creating landscaping at the front and completely redoing the lobby, adding “attractive and beautiful modern standards” and improving the lighting. everywhere.
“The real thing about this particular asset, and it’s the hallmark of a lot of the assets we’re buying now across the country,” is the ability to work indoors and out, says- he.
Behind the building is a lush green space with a private island connected to the main area by a bridge – hence the new name. Sason plans to transform this space by creating shaded areas where tenants can come to work and have access to Wi-Fi and connect seamlessly to their offices. The goal, says Joshua, is to create the vibe of a campus rather than a traditional, stuffy office building.
The renovation will also include a complete overhaul of the fitness centre, which will benefit from new equipment as well as a changing room with showers which will open onto the green space at the rear.
Work on The Bridge began the last week of May and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Joshua says when finished “It will be an exciting place to spend your time.” And that’s a statement rarely uttered when talking about an office building.