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New downtown office building completed

STORY BY STEVEN M. THOMAS (Week of March 10, 2022)
Photo: Joe Foglia in front of 1745 20th Street building.

The exterior of the first new class-A office building in downtown Vero Beach in more than a decade is complete and the interior is being designed this week to suit a buyer who put the property under contract in February.

Developer Joe Foglia said he got the handsome, two-story, Federal-style building built just in time.

The brick-clad structure was erected in 2020 and 2021, during the period when the cost of building materials went through the roof at the same time as many essential construction products became hard to get in a timely fashion. But Foglia had ordered the bulk of the material before Covid-19 and supply-chain problems disrupted the building industry.

“The good news is that most of the material for the site work and shell – the concrete, block, brick, trusses and other key materials – were purchased before the craziness really started,” Foglia told Vero Beach 32963. “All that stuff was already contracted for when prices jumped.

“If we had started a year later, the costs would have been 25 percent higher.”

At least.

According to a February report from the National Association of Homebuilders, “building materials prices ... have risen 28.7 percent since January 2020. Over the past four months, the material price index has climbed 8.4 percent.”

“To be honest, I would not undertake this project today. Not under these conditions,” Foglia said. “I’d build it for someone else as a general contractor, but I wouldn’t do it as speculative venture. Not now.”

Supply-chain holdups and price increases have had some impact in the final stages of completing the shell and two-story lobby.

“A lot of the little things don’t get done as fast as you would like,” Foglia said. “For instance, there was a delay finishing the recessed lights in the lobby because the trim rings were back ordered – whatever that means. Are the rings held up at the Canadian border? Are they out on a ship somewhere that can’t get into port? Have they not been made? Who the hell knows?”

But he essentially got in under the wire, completing what project architect Hal Lambert calls “a landmark building” for much less than it would cost to build now.

“Joe did a great job building it out, completing the shell and putting in the landscaping and pavers. It is nice to see it finished,” said Lambert, who is nearing retirement and views the building as something of a capstone on his career.

“Being a Vero Beach high school grad and resident of Vero for 50 years, it is nice to go out with a project of this quality and caliber,” he said.

Foglia bought the 0.34-acre lot at the edge of downtown in 2016 for $550,000 but was too busy with other projects for several years to tackle the office building.

He said he paid a higher price than he otherwise would have because the site came with city approvals for a new office building, which saved him time and expense.

“With this building being located so close to the courthouse, I figured it would most likely contain law offices, so I felt it needed to be dignified, solid, and done in a classically American architectural style,” said Lambert, who operates Hal Lambert Architecture.

“I was also inspired by Vero’s old historical all-brick power plant located at the other end of the twin pairs.

“Relatively few buildings in Vero Beach are clad in brick, and this building is all brick, like the power plant, so the two buildings are kind of like bookends on the twin pairs downtown.”

The building’s market appeal was demonstrated when a buyer stepped up and made an acceptable offer in February.

The building, located at 1745 20th St., has 20 covered, ground-level parking spaces under the raised building and six more on the east side. The two-story lobby, which is complete, has reception space, an elevator and a stylish staircase to the second-floor office space.

Foglia finished the lobby in a modern style with stainless-steel stair railings and other details that contrast with the traditional exterior.

“I wanted to create the impression of an older building that had been renovated in a modern style,” he said of the interior design aesthetic.

On the main floor at the top of the stairs are 7,800 square feet of office space that Foglia has roughed in as five unfinished suites ranging from 1,371 to 1,783 square feet.

He left the suites open and unfinished so that they could be customized for the eventual buyer or tenants.

Foglia listed the property with Billy Moss and Ron Lambert at Lambert Commercial Real Estate. They offered it for sale at $4.35 million or for lease at $28 per square foot.

Possible deal scenarios included an investor buying the leased-up building as an income property or an end-user such as a law firm or financial services company buying it as a company headquarters.

Because the sale of the building has not closed, the sale price is still under wraps and Moss did not want to say who the buyer is or what business they are in.  But other sources said the buyer plans to use the space for his own enterprise as opposed to leasing it out for income.

The sale is listed as pending on the Lambert Commercial Real Estate website, which typically means non-refundable money has been put down, making the deal solid, but Foglia says the contract is contingent on reaching an agreement with the buyer about the details of the buildout.

The buildout is included in the undisclosed purchase price but it is budgeted at a certain amount.  Foglia said once the permits are in hand, finishing the interior of the building will take several months.