MANATEE -- Looking to expand their practices and get more exposure, doctors and other medical professionals are leasing and buying more office space.
Manatee County practices large and small have been making property moves throughout the first half of this year. High-dollar transactions have included a $13.9 million investment in two cancer clinics by a Tampa real estate investment trust, and a $1.42 million purchase by Lakewood Ranch-based Dental Care Alliance. Near Blake Medical Center, Manatee Gynecology is building a 10,000-square-foot clinic on an investment of just under $2 million.
In recent weeks, at least three smaller practices have added or moved to new locations. Manatee Physicians Alliance, periodontist Thomas Rubino and Arsenault Dermatology each signed a lease for more space.
Tony Veldkamp, who manages the Sarasota Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisory Group party to each of those transactions, said doctors and clinics are generally following a trend in which medical groups locate branch offices to reach new clients and to gain visibility.
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Medical real estate, in general, is also growing. According to a 2015 market projection by commercial real estate service organization Colliers International, medical office vacancies are at the lowest level since the Great Recession, hitting 10.6 percent in the South. The projection notes that older real estate tends to have a higher vacancy rate.
"The market seems to be pretty active," Veldkamp said. "Part of common denominator is they want visibility and signage."
Rubino, who has offices in West Bradenton, East Manatee and Sun City Center, leased nearly 2,600 square feet in Ranch Lake Plaza for an office that will eventually accommodate the entry of his sons, Ryan and Tyler, into the practice. Rubino has had a Lakewood Ranch presence in another practice's office since 2007, but the new space is entirely his.
Being in the Lakewood Ranch area has grown his client base.
"It's growing like crazy out there," Rubino said.
Rubino's East Manatee office is in a property that has never been occupied. Manatee Physicians Alliance is also moving into a newer building, a professional and retail center built at 1854 Rye Road in 2010.
Additional new small medical office space is also under construction on University Parkway, where Manasota Pediatrics is building nearly 14,000 square feet across two buildings near Lockwood Ridge Road. Veldkamp said that in addition to the 3,500 square feet the pediatrics office will take, a dental group has signed on to lease. An urgent care clinic has also expressed interest.
Also under construction is an 18,000-square-foot, two story medical office building on Ranch Lake Boulevard that will house multiple tenants. Cyndi Myers, a leasing agent with Wagner Realty's Lakewood Ranch office, said the top floor will be occupied by the property's owner, AllCare Medical Centers. Cardiologist Jagen Akella has leased about 2,500 square feet on the ground floor, while Myers is negotiating a lease with another party for about 2,000 square feet.
The asking price for space in the building is $20 per square foot on a triple-net basis.
Building owners in the medical office sector are seeing room for moving their properties. Veldkamp said medical offices are seeing capitalization rates of about 8 percent and are selling, on average, for between $250 and $300 per square foot.
In the general office market, cap rates were at 9.5 percent in the first quarter of the year in Manatee County, according to statistics compiled by Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT. The average selling price for office real estate was $105 per square foot during that period.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.