The second phase of St. Petersburg's downtown housing boom gets under way despite uncertainty.
By Stacie Kress Booker
With the population of the city's core -- now about 3,300 -- likely to more than triple in the next 10 years, developers are moving to create more housing options downtown.
Plans call for two more upscale high-rises and luxury rental apartments. The two high-rises will go up along the city's waterfront, adding more than 300 pricey units to the market. One, a condominium by the Southeast Cos. that will also include a limited service hotel, is in preliminary design stages. The other, The Villas by Morris Development Group, will have twin 20-story towers and retailers in a three-story building next door.
And for the first time, the city will also have upscale rental options downtown. Under construction just a few blocks from the waterfront is the first phase of the Madison, a 277-unit luxury apartment complex. Phase two will double the number of apartments and is also slated to include a Publix supermarket. The apartments will range from $900 a month for a one-bedroom unit to $2,000 a month for three-bedroom units and rental townhomes. The developer, Orlando-based ZOM Development, says this type of rental housing is the last component necessary to a successful downtown.
There's ample demand, says Greg West, vice president of development at ZOM. "Downtown St. Pete has 25,000 to 40,000 workers, and there's really no luxury rental housing in the proximity."
The downtown housing boom under way in cities throughout the state began in St. Petersburg about two years ago with the building of the Florencia, the Cloisters and Vinoy Place, a total of 134 units. All are sold out. Another 50 units are under construction and are 90% sold. While the first phase of new downtown housing was geared toward empty-nesters and retirees, this second phase, particularly the apartments, is aimed more toward working professionals.
As the U.S. economy grapples with a new layer of uncertainty brought on by September's terrorist attacks, local developers say they still plan to move ahead. Ian Irwin, CEO of Southeast Cos. and a longtime resident of St. Petersburg, says the economic uncertainty may slow down timetables but won't cancel projects in the works.
Irwin has been trying to drive residential development downtown for 20 years and predicts an influx of 8,000 to 10,000 downtown residents in eight years, a conservative estimate, according to the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. "We're going to see it take off in the next 10 years," says Irwin.
In the News
Bradenton -- The Manatee County Commission passed a new ordinance limiting residential construction to 35 feet high in unincorporated parts of the county. The ordinance, which goes into effect March 30, jeopardizes Sarasota-based SBC Development's planned 930-unit condominium project for west Bradenton.
Bottled water manufacturer Water Boy increased its distribution territory to southwest Florida through its acquisition of distributor Mountain Water, based in Cashiers, N.C.
The Economic Development Council of Manatee County has developed a five-year strategic plan. Among its goals: Increase the number of jobs in industries paying at or above the U.S. average wage by 25%, boost county tax rolls by $200 million and recruit at least 20 professional service technology companies.
Lakeland -- New FDA quality-control requirements on the reprocessing of medical devices is giving Vanguard Medical Concept a boost. The medical device reprocessor recently signed on Premier Inc. and Voluntary Hospitals of America (VHA), two of the nation's largest hospital and healthcare alliances, comprising 50% of all U.S. hospitals.
Naples -- Investment adviser Wasmer, Schroeder & Co. has expanded its operations to the Midwest through a recent partnership with Cleveland-based GLC Capital Management. The new Cleveland office will operate under the Wasmer name. Wasmer specializes in fixed-income portfolio management for individual and institutional investors. The deal boosts its managed assets to $275 million.
The LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort is scheduled to open next month after undergoing a $45-million renovation. The resort has added a full-service spa, a private golf course and a restaurant created by Miami restaurateur Robbin Haas. All 237 rooms have also been upgraded.
Sarasota -- Secretary of State Katherine Harris is running for U.S. Congress. She recently filed to run for the House of Representatives seat being vacated by Dan Miller, R-Bradenton, who is retiring after 10 years. The district, a historically safe one for Republicans, encompasses Sarasota and Manatee counties and parts of Hillsborough and Charlotte counties.
St. Petersburg -- Florida Power has submitted a filing with the Florida Public Service Commission to cut rates by $5 million a year over 15 years, a result of the company's merger with CP&L last year. The PSC plans hearings for March.
Tampa -- Intermedia Communications will cut 200 jobs at its Tampa offices. Nationwide, about 900 of the internet and telephone services firm's 4,000 employees will be laid off in the coming months. WorldCom purchased Intermedia in July.
A survey by the Progressive Policy Institute for Enterprise Florida ranks Tampa second only to West Palm Beach-Boca Raton in the number of high-tech patents awarded to companies. However, Tampa Bay trails state and national averages in college degree attainment at less than 20%.
Tampa landed its biggest convention ever: The annual conference of the Shrine of North America. About 20,000 Shriners are scheduled to meet in the summer of 2006. The six-day convention is expected to generate 30,897 room-nights and $24.7 million in direct spending.
The city's fast-tracked high-tech incubator was officially named, moved into temporary offices and appointed an interim director last summer. TechVillage Tampa Bay is occupying 3,000 square feet at the University of Tampa, which includes private office space for four companies as well as common space for joint use. Eric Helman, former CEO of SourceTrack, is serving as interim executive director.
Walter Industries (NYSE-WLT) will move its headquarters to the Westshore business district next month. The company will relocate 300 employees into Corporate Center Two, a recently constructed office complex developed by Crescent Resources.
Privately held Southern Power & Controls Corp. announced contracts worth more than $8.4 million, ranging from electrical systems for juice refrigeration systems for Brazilian company Cutrale Citrus Juices to a full installation of the Hatchet Creek Bridge electrical system in Venice.
Development: Heading South
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY -- With developable land nearly built out in western Hillsborough County, one developer is looking southward with ambitious plans. Terrabrook, developer of New Tampa's hot-selling Westchase community, will build a $400-million, 750-acre master planned waterfront community in a newly named area called SouthShore.
The gated community, equidistant from Tampa and St. Petersburg, will be called Mira Bay and will feature Old Florida-style architecture with more than 60% of the lots on the water. Tampa-based Heidt & Associates recently received the engineering contract for the project. Homebuilders will be selected later this year, with construction on the $200,000-to-$500,000 homes slated to begin next summer.