PALM HARBOR — In an era where many executive centers and strip malls are suffering from low occupancy rates and outdated styles, The Key West Center in Palm Harbor is bucking the trend.
The 63,000-square-foot facility, comprised of three commercial buildings on four-and-a-half-acres, has been a fixture at 2706 Alt. 19 N., at Alderman Road, for more than 30 years.
But rather than go the way of the indoor shopping mall, The Key West Center has received an infusion of life in the form of cosmetic, infrastructure and technological improvements following a recent ownership change.
“The new ownership took over last year, and they’ve completely renovated and remodeled the property,” property manager Niki Michalakopoulos said. The center “is very unique” with more than 100 businesses of varying sizes spread across the three buildings, she said.
Michalakopoulos, an outgoing young professional who worked at the center under the previous owners, said the refresh appropriately included a Key West-style pastel paint job. “I think that’s what makes it so special,” she said of the facility’s design.
However, Michalakopoulos noted the changes at the Key West Center are more than just skin deep.
Additional improvements include state-of-the-art technology such as lightning fast Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the center, an app-based check-in system for tenants, an internet phone system “with many business-friendly features” and four conference rooms that are available for anyone to rent.
“We’re trying to stay on the leading edge of technological advances,” Michalakopoulos said as she demonstrated a futuristic conference room mirror with a built-in computer interface. “I feel it helps people maximize efficiency and helps our tenants, who are mainly small business owners.”
In addition to the tech, Michalakopoulos said there are plans to convert an open patio area into a community gathering space that will host concerts and other events, plus landscaping improvements, a new pylon sign on Alt. 19 as well as postcard-style murals on the ends of the two largest buildings.
She also started a newsletter to help keep Key West Center tenants informed about what’s happening at the complex, and she said
“There are so many different businesses here — attorneys, restaurants, hair salons, massage studios, insurance agents. ... We really run the gamut,” she said. “So, we’ve been trying to create a community within the plaza.”
As if on cue, a tenant who overheard the conversation was quick to jump in and praise Michalakopoulos for spearheading many of the improvements and working to unite everyone in the sprawling complex.
“They are constantly upgrading the place, and Niki really cares about the tenants and our success,” financial advisor David Cottrell said. Michalakopoulos even helped Cottrell join the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce, one of three local chambers The Key West Center is a member of. “She really is trying to create a community here.”
Attorney Anne Sunne Freeman, who was standing nearby, agreed.
“I’ve been here two years and the changes are amazing,” she said. “All of my clients are amazed. They love it. It’s urban, professional, clean. The staff is wonderful with my elderly clients. We all work well together, and everybody gets along. I just love it.”
With unprompted recommendations like that, it’s no wonder The Key West Center is enjoying a boom during a time where similar facilities are going bust.
“We’re at over 80 percent occupancy, almost 90 percent,” Michalakopoulos said. “It’s very good, and we continue to see exponential growth. I attribute it to what we’re doing — offering competitive rates, new technology and finding the right fit. We have something to fit everybody’s needs.”
While the new high-tech improvements have played a big part in its success, Michalakopoulos was quick to state it’s good old-fashioned customer service that keeps The Key West Center tenants and guests happy.
“We have a management team that’s actively engaged in promoting the center and the tenants,” she said, noting they are preparing to offer an on-site auto glass tinting service for tenants and visitors.
“As much as we’re trying to be cutting-edge, we’re using old-school techniques like relationship building to help fuel our growth.”