While its brokers say insurance giant Continental Casualty Co., or CNA, could still take all four floors of the 137,000-square-foot office building being constructed for it in Lake Mary/Heathrow, the company insists it will go with three floors as initially planned.
CNA executives and companies representing the project were vocal about seeing the entire building as a strong fit for the Seminole County area when ground was broken last November.
The property is located in the Lake Mary office park at 500 Colonial Center Parkway, between Interstate 4 and International Parkway.
"As of right now we have no plans" to take anything but floors two through four, CNA spokesman Brandon Davis told GrowthSpotter on Monday, from the company's Chicago headquarters.
This is usually where the reqion's economic development commission gets involved and tries to sway an existing business to take the extra steps to expand, a task much easier than getting a company to move to the area.
Tricia Setzer, chief administrator of economic development for Seminole County, said in this case CNA worked directly with property owner Piedmont Office Realty Trust and did not seek county incentives.
As a result, the words from CNA's corporate headquarters are telling. The decision has been made to move roughly 554 jobs from CNA's existing offices in Maitland Center, and now it looks like new hiring will be limited.
Given the size of the first floor, a back-of-the-envelope estimate would project about 150 new, white collar employees to fill the extra floor space.
CNA executives have said they were taking the $30 million, nearly 150,000-square-foot building and its 600-car, four-level garage to make a definitive statement about Seminole County as a place for business.
The CNA parking lot is being designed for density, allowing for six spaces per 1,000 square feet, when the common approach is four to five spaces per one thousand square feet.
Davis declined to elaborate on why CNA does not want the additional office space.
Nonetheless, there are optimists very close to the project, which now has a number of its walls up, its ground cleared, and is expected to be done in January 2017.
"I think there is a good chance they will take it all," said broker Greg Morrison of Avison Young. "What corporate (Davis) says and what happens could be two different things."
The words could be telling, given project financier Piedmont brought in Morrison and a partner to try and sell or lease the additional office space.
Morrison said that while he still feel strongly about CNA going all in, he is looking for technology, professional services and corporations to take the first floor, which will also have 1,000-square-feet given over to a CNA meeting room.
Meanwhile, Piedmont, in addition to owning the 6.3-acre CNA parcel, has an adjacent 20-acre thicket it plans to clear for uses that can include three office buildings of 800,000 square feet in total, 100,000 square feet of retail — quality restaurants, not fast food — and a 250-room hotel.
Morrison said he is in the midst of "talking to a couple of hotel users."
The developer of the CNA project is Providence One Partners, the general contractor is Brasfield & Gorrie, architect is Baker Barrios, IBI Group is the civil engineer, and Finrock is the garage contractor.