ST. PETERSBURG — Last year’s boom in retail and residential development downtown hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in the first four months of 2014.
This week, developers announced the largest rental apartment project yet: an eight-story, 348-unit luxury property that will take up an entire city block just east of Tropicana Field.
St. Petersburg’s ubiquitous businessman, Bill Edwards, quietly has acquired another block-size parcel for $12 million at 25 Second St. N., a block south of the renovated BayWalk retail center, though he has said nothing about plans for the prime spot.
The much-anticipated Sundial retail complex, appearing on Interstate 275 exit signs next to The Pier, is close to opening, and several of its tenants have begun to advertise.
Meanwhile, people are beginning to populate two of the midrise apartment buildings that broke ground last year, marking the start of an expected surge in urban dwellers that likely will drive more building in years to come.
The Urban Landings/Harbour’s Edge apartments, a mix of 85 senior and 40 family units on Fourth Avenue South, was almost entirely pre-leased before move-ins began in December and is now full, the property’s managers said.
The $65 million Hermitage luxury apartments, occupying the 700 block of First Avenue South, is positioned perfectly to take advantage of the city’s rapid transformation into one of Florida’s most desirable places to live for the old and the young, Allen Morris says.
“St. Petersburg has really evolved into a much more dynamic city, a beautiful city to live in, and also with great jobs in the educational community, the medical community, the business and professional community,” said Morris, a veteran commercial real estate developer.
The multifamily building will offer studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with the feel of a “luxury resort,” including a rooftop pool and spa, fitness center, outdoor grilling and a private meeting and dining room overlooking the bay, the type of frills that have become standard for much of downtown’s new rental housing.
The project could break ground by July with a target opening near the end of 2015.
Its target audience is urban millennials and their parents — that is, empty nesters — attracted to downtown amenities such as the Pinellas Trail that runs along First Avenue South and the list of art galleries, breweries, restaurants and shops that gets longer every month, much like the list of Bill Edwards’ downtown projects.
There’s the operation of the city’s Mahaffey Theater, the salvation of the failed BayWalk plaza, principal ownership of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and now a big, mostly empty parcel about which Edwards has said nothing.
Dubbed the Tropicana Block, a Miami development group planned before the economic downturn to build a 570-unit condominium tower and 155-room hotel on this virtually empty lot in the heart of downtown.
In February, a request to the city’s Development Review Commission to tear down a four-story building on the parcel’s southwest corner to make way for building permits was deferred at the last minute.
A month later, a limited liability company run by Edwards called Tropicana Block St. Pete bought the property, county property records show.
What he intends to do with it is a mystery, but the land’s intense zoning means the sky is almost the limit for what he could do.
A sprawling retail center, towering condominium or some combination of the two are among possible options.
“There’s a lot of development potential there,” said Rick Smith of the city’s planning and economic development department.
“It is our most dense, intense zoning classification and it’s 100 percent location.”
Beach Drive is a block to the east, with the bars and nightclubs of the Jannus Block to the west, and Edwards’ Sundial complex to the north.
Edwards has said little in the past month about his redesigned outdoor restaurant and shopping center as construction barricades on Second Avenue North have come down for views of a three-story-tall bowstring sundial centered in the courtyard.
A handful of businesses individually have announced openings at Sundial, such as White House Black Market, a women’s apparel boutique, and Diamonds Direct, an importer of conflict-free jewels that allows customers to design their own pieces by computer.
Marilyn Monroe Spas also has chosen Sundial as the next spot in its expanding collection of locations in city centers and resorts. The company targets “lifestyle centers” with broad age demographics, says founder Niki Bryan.
The Sundial Glamour Room will cater to downtown residents and visitors looking for hairstyling, makeup, manicures and other spa services.
No word yet on a promised restaurant by a world-class celebrity chef.
The reincarnation of this ill-fated shopping plaza should do much better than its predecessor, which had its heyday at a less lively time for downtown retail and entertainment, Smith said.
He also doesn’t see this year’s very lively development activity fading anytime soon. “I definitely don’t sense a letting up,” Smith said.