Two Years Later: Industry experts on the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic on Tampa’s Downtown

Three local experts shared insights about the state of Tampa’s Downtown two years after the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic. They spoke on April 7, 2022, at the Partnership’s Downtown Debriefing Series, where 75+ guests gathered at the Hyatt Place/Hyatt House in Tampa’s Downtown.


Christine Howard, Partner with Fisher Phillips shed light on current labor laws related to the workforce returning to the office and the new normal of hybrid schedules, vaccines, and flexible policies.



‘The best approach to making a return to the office is to figure out what your company needs and what works for your goals and then make your plans. There is nothing legally that requires your workers to come back to the office.” Christine stated.



“Laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will apply for employees asking for remote work, especially since there is a precedent when the employee did remote work for over a year. In addition, you will see wage and hour law claims due to the certainty of the number of hours worked, taking calls, and answering emails. For non-exempt employees, remote policies should be in writing that the workday ends at a certain time and that they should not be taking calls, etc. during non-work hours or more than 40 hours.”

Scott Garlick, Managing Principal at Cushman Wakefield, updated guests on the trends seen in commercial real estate as new projects are built in Tampa’s Downtown and companies are returning to their leased space.



“Tampa’s Downtown commercial real estate market is more active than ever, and the leading companies are the ones that are allowing a flexible work style but making the office part of the culture of the company,” Scott stated. “Workspaces will see more ‘hoteling’ desks and designated private spaces. A well-designed space with communal gathering spaces is now used as a talent recruitment tool.”



Cushman Wakefield recently brokered the deal with Reliaquest, a growing cyber security firm and a “culture-first” company with a young workforce. Scott shared that “(Reliaquest) relocated to Thousand & One in Water Street Tampa as a part of their headcount growth and their ability to brand themselves in a district. They are creating a first-class, state-of-the-art 21st-century office space to cultivate a live, work, and play environment for their employees and visiting team members.”


Wade Elliot, Vice President of Business Development at Port Tampa Bay, shared updates on the port’s expansion and response to supply chain issues around the globe. Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest and most diversified port, moving 33 million tons of cargo a year, and is connected to the I-4 corridor, with over 380 million square feet of distribution center space.



Wade shared why Port Tampa Bay is easing shipping delays and costs for the region, “You can drop cargo at Port Tampa Bay and truck it to Lakeland within a 30-minute drive, vastly saving companies money per shipment against other southern locations such as Savanah, GA.”



Wade also noted that the port’s expansion will have greater positive impacts, “Downtown Tampa will see more companies moving here and more office space as cargo capacity expands and streets like Channelside Drive receive improvements to make the pedestrian environments near the port and cruise terminals safer and more attractive.”


Learn more about the Downtown Debriefing Series and other networking and educational events by becoming a member of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.