TAMPA, Fla. — Like Ponce de Leon a half millennium earlier, New York-based Chase Manhattan Corp., now J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., ventured to Florida looking for a fresh start and extravagant riches. Unlike Ponce de Leon, JPMorgan Treasury Services, the firm's cash management group, actually found what it was looking for in Highland Oaks, Indianapolis-based Duke-Weeks Realty Corp.'s suburban office park outside of Tampa near Interstate 75.

JPMorgan Treasury Services' new $100 million campus marks Duke-Weeks' largest office deal ever and includes three, 5-story build-to-suit buildings totaling 450,000 sq. ft. and a 1,850-space garage, which is the size of an aircraft carrier, on 34 acres in the 88-acre park. Set amid 100-year-old moss-draped oaks and subtropical landscaping, Highland Oaks also includes two spec office buildings, one of which is fully leased, and a 150-room Hilton Garden Hotel, which is currently under construction. Duke-Weeks even incorporated original columns from the plantation on the site into the landscaping of the Highland Oaks buildings that are not part of the JPMorgan campus.

JPMorgan Treasury Services began moving into the Tampa campus in January and already handles more than $1 trillion — yes, trillion — in global transactions daily. The campus serves as an electronic clearinghouse for international transactions and as a billing and balance-management center for the bank's corporate customers.

The JPMorgan move initially stemmed from real estate issues in the New York/Tri-State area — the company had a number of leases near expiration. JPMorgan put together a list of 81 cities and myriad developers, and then narrowed the focus to six developers in Central Florida, where the company has maintained a substantial presence for 16 years.

JPMorgan's prior experience in Tampa and Hillsborough County, Fla., and Duke-Weeks' ability to meet its timetable clinched the deal, said John Zutter, senior vice president at JPMorgan Treasury Services. Central Florida's ability to meet JPMorgan's labor needs — both in cost and quality — were an added attraction as the company found itself fighting for employees in higher-cost locations with more competitive job markets.

“As the company continued to grow through acquisitions, we found that we were overtaxing some markets,” Zutter said. “As a matter of strategy, we had to look at high-growth, Sunbelt markets. Our friends at Duke-Weeks came through with flying colors.”

With the go-ahead from JPMorgan, Duke-Weeks worked with local authorities and the global financial services giant on an aggressive 10-month construction schedule. Duke-Weeks actually delivered the project ahead of schedule, an amazing feat considering the company generally develops spec office buildings, without tenant improvements, on a 10-month timetable.

The JPMorgan campus contains 120 miles of underground conduit cable, not to mention the high-tech infrastructure required to process trillions of dollars in transactions every day and train thousands of employees. Other amenities include an 11,000 sq. ft. child-care center, a cafeteria large enough for the entire campus staff, 14 training rooms, a 3.4-acre nature preserve with four pavilions for outdoor meetings, a fitness center and four generators to provide redundant power for the complex.

The ability of the developer, tenant and local authorities to work together and define and adhere to objectives on such a highly specialized, complex development made the project so successful, said John Coleman, senior vice president in Duke-Weeks' Tampa/Orlando office.

“It's not just three spec office buildings we completed and then brought in a tenant,” Coleman said. “I think there are few companies that could pull this off.”