Channelside drive projects

Urban Developers Reveal Housing Plans

2004


CHANNEL DISTRICT - The two largest residential projects in the district are firming up plans, each releasing their latest architectural renderings.
Grand Central recently razed an assortment of run-down warehouses to begin preconstruction sales. And Seaport Town Centre will seek city council approval today for its land purchase.

Channel District developer Doug Weber was thrilled to hear that nearly all 260 units at The Towers have been reserved.

The Channel District has emerged as the leading area for urban development. Its three main streets in a former warehouse neighborhood near the Port of Tampa are slated for a dozen residential projects.

Here's an update on two:


Grand Central


Billed as the first fully integrated urban Main Street, Grand Central plans 60,000 square feet of office space, 127,000 square feet of retail, plus a 2,000-square-foot art gallery and a 4,500-square- foot theater. About 370 condominium units are planned, down from the original 500 announced to make room for more commercial space, co- developer Ken Stoltenberg said.

Grand Central features a 14- story building connected to another 12-story building where there are plans for a rooftop swimming pool.

A model two-bedroom loft will open in April on the 4.35- acre site


The project backs up to the Kennedy Boulevard viaduct, which the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority plans to remove in the summer of 2005 as part of the Meridian Street gateway project.

Wearing a Grand Central ball cap, Mark Huey, the city's economic development administrator, told a small crowd recently that he's a fan of the Mercury Advisors development.

``I'm excited about this vision of combining retail, residential and the arts. This sets a standard in the neighborhood and hopefully will be a a catalyst for future development,'' he said.

Grand Central doesn't require tax dollars, Huey said.

Frank Bombeeck, Stoltenberg's partner, said the project is looking at numerous possibilities for a grocery store.

``This is the location to be,'' he said. ``People who live here will need a grocery store, as well as those in Ybor City and downtown.''

Occupancy is slated for late 2005 or early 2006.


Seaport Town Centre

This mostly rental development may take as long as 2 1/2 years to complete, said Doug Weber, president of developer Synergy Properties Inc.

Tampa City Council today will consider the $5.5-plus million Synergy has offered to pay for the 7.5 acres of city-owned property known as the 12th Street Yard. It is where traffic signs and lights were stored.

Synergy plans a five-story complex with 404 residential units facing the Street. More adjustments will be made to the architectural rendering because the city suggested all parking be hidden from view.

Rents are estimated at $990 for a one-bedroom to $1,700 for a three-bedroom, Weber told the February Channel District Council meeting.

Weber said another 40 units on the east side of 12th Street will be sold as condominiums.

Two swimming pools will be available for residents. About 11,000 square feet of retail will include a 3,000-square-foot exercise facility and facilities such as a bank, dry cleaner and gourmet food shop, Weber said.

Thirty days after the city council approves the land sale, Weber expects to begin an environmental clean up of the property, which should take about a year.

IN DEPTH: RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE

Newest projects grab attention of young and hip

 

The place

Amidst a wave of new mixed-use developments throughout the Tampa Bay area, developers are now catering to on a certain group of buyers -- young professionals that want to work, live and play in an urban environment.

Hoping to capitalize on an urban revitalization trend stemming from New York's SoHo district in the 1980s, developer Fida Sirdar believes his newest project, The Place, will offer a new standard for contemporary living designed to cater to this younger, "hip" population.

" a natural for The Place because of the unique blend of amenities within walking distance," said Sirdar, president of Key Developers Group LLC. "Our project wants to set the tone for future gentrification."

And the numbers lend support.

Between 1992 and 2002, the Tampa Bay area's population grew by 19.1 percent.

In addition, to more than 145,800 people migrated to the Tampa Bay region between 2000 and 2002. Of the total international migration of 32,026 people who migrated to the Tampa Bay area during this period, Hillsborough County received 42 percent.

The population of the counties that comprise the Tampa Bay metropolitan statistical area, 3.7 million based on 2002 figures, has similar characteristics with regard to gender, race and household size. However, Pasco and Hernando counties have older populations, both with median ages of 49 years.

In Pinellas County the median age is 43 years, whereas in Hillsborough County it's 34, which is representative of the national norm. Hillsborough County, especially, attracts younger adults because of diverse industries and a growing economy, based on a report from Enterprise Florida.

Future residents at The Place can select floor plans for suites and penthouses ranging from 926 to 3,665 square feet, plus nine studios at 600 square feet, with prices ranging from the $180,000s to more than $1 million.

In addition, The Place will include a retail component. Sirdar said the property aims to host an eclectic blend of upscale European-style retail shops, including a sidewalk cafe, unique boutiques, local grocer and newsstand, artists' studios/galleries, wine store, day spa, dry cleaners and automated teller machines.

"We want our residents to be able to enjoy themselves without having to get into their cars," said Sirdar. "With what's happening in the district recently, I feel extremely confident we will succeed."

Each of the complex's 243 suites and penthouses incorporate innovative architecture that includes hardwood flooring, vaulted ceilings and full-glass balconies.

"When buyers leave the model, we want them to feel as though there isn't a better fit for them anywhere in the Tampa Bay area," said Sirdar. "We want to promote a walkable community, with art and function and flair."

Diana Burch, marketing director and co-owner of Blue Line Realty at 400 Channelside Drive, said the demand for young urban professionals is more than just a selling point for developers.

"If you think about it, there's this big drive that we have to attract the young professionals here because like it or not, they are the future and they have the expendable money," said Burch. "If we don't attract and keep these people here, there goes our economy."

Burch, who is younger than 30, said she contemplated leaving the area simply because simple amenities didn't exist in downtown Tampa. Those feelings have changed.

"I live on Harbour Island and need to drive to Kennedy and Dale Mabry just to get gas or a sandwich," said Burch. "We need to make it more livable down here because the young professionals just don't seem to want the suburbs just yet. They want to be excited, and I think it's finally happening."

Bill Ware, managing principal in the team developing Ventana, an 84-unit, 11-story mixed-use project, said targeting the right kind of buyer is important in today's highly competitive real estate market.

"There's the belief in residential development now, and I think well-founded, that it is important to offer buyers more than just a residence," said Ware. "People now want, and expect, to have options when they buy a new residence. To make a development more attractive, it is important to be able to point to shopping, restaurants and other attractions in an area. Channelside now can offer that."

The trend isn't just spreading through the Channel District, it also has caught on in other parts of the Tampa Bay area, especially downtown St. Petersburg.

Tampa-based Opus South Development LLC is building the $100-million Parkshore Plaza, which will go near two existing luxury condo towers. Parkshore Plaza, like its contemporaries in the Channel District, has been designed to attract urban professionals who want to live, work and play near downtown, said Jerry T. Shaw, senior vice president at Opus South.

"We are very competitive in the marketplace and believe there is a pent-up demand for high-end living in an urban setting," Shaw said.

At Parkshore Plaza, tower homes will be built in 26 of the 29 floors, leaving the first three floors for a two-story lobby with concierge, fitness room and social areas.

Shaw said each of the residential floors, except for the top three, will have four units ranging in size from 2,500 to 3,100 square feet. Floors 27 and 28 will have only two condominiums each. Those units will be about 4,800 square feet in size.

Five of the 119 units will be penthouses in the 29-story tower. The penthouses are priced at $2.25-million to $3.5-million. The other condominium units, some of which will be located around the tower, range from $268,000 to $1.2-million.

Jun 20, 2004

TAMPA - Instead of taking a summer break from Channel District loft activity because of road construction, developers are proceeding as planned.
Bill Ware has finalized design plans for his Ventana development. The Place is set to open its Discovery Center today. The Towers has 250 reservations for its 260 planned units. Grand Central is offering a mixed- use, 370-unit condominium development, and plans to open a sales center at the end of June. And Victory Lofts plans to complete its 89 units by December.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plans to take down the Kennedy Boulevard viaduct in 30 days, spokeswoman Perry Dawn Brown said.

The viaduct, an eyesore in the middle of this booming residential growth, is being removed, Brown said, to make way for a landscaped, six-lane highway that will bring one- way traffic to and from Brandon.

The Meridian Street Gateway will mean the Channel District will become the grand entrance to downtown Tampa, developers say.

``I think that's been a big selling point,'' said Richard Sacchi, president of the Towers of Channelside. ``Our buyers want to be where the action is.''

Sacchi said construction should begin on the twin 30- story towers in January or February.

``We sold 250 units in 13 days,'' he said, noting the project is opposite the Channelside entertainment/restaurant complex.

The Towers also will include five retail spaces, four of which are sold. These will bring a coffee shop, dry cleaners, fitness center, deli and a sushi place to the area.

``We wanted neighborhood retail, not something competing with Channelside,'' Sacchi said.

The 84 units at Ventana also will enjoy a key location, opposite a streetcar stop.

``About 60 percent of the project will be glass so owners will have lots of open space and windows to enjoy the views,'' Ware said.

A fourth-floor terrace level, where units surround the swimming pool, will feature private patios.

``People can actually live out there,'' Ware said. ``It will be big enough for a table and four chairs.''

Ware plans a sales center for Ventana, which means windows in Spanish, in September, and expects to begin construction next year.

Developer Fida H. Sirdar has renovated one of the warehouses on his 2.2 acres between 12th Street and Channelside Drive to showcase The Place

The sales center will offer 256 units to be built around a courtyard. Residents will also enjoy a pet park on the fifth level. On the street level, plans are in the works for retail and art galleries.

Grand Central is finishing a two-bedroom model near the viaduct. The project will include retail stores, office space, an art gallery and community theater, Mercury Advisors developer Ken Stoltenberg announced recently.

Victory Lofts has four penthouses left, said Nick Pavonetti, who is overseeing The Beck Group's two-building project. The four-story Model T building is a renovation of an old structure, and the seven-story Victory Building is new. Both are located at the corner.

Pavonetti said one of the penthouses will be kept to serve as a model unit for a future residential project in downtown Tampa or the Channel District.

``We couldn't be more pleased with this project,'' he said.

Project responds to demand for Channel District residential

Developer reveals plans for project

TAMPA -- After 40 years of waiting, developer Bill Ware believes now is the time for mixed-use residential in the Channel District.

Ware is the managing principal in Ventana Tampa LLC. His newest project, called Ventana, will consist of 84 units in 11 stories on a little more than an acre


The property had been in Ware's family for four decades, but it wasn't until the last few years that Ware decided the time was right for residential in the Channel District.

"My grandfather has owned the parcel for years, but there never really seemed to be a demand for downtown residential," said Ware. "A lot of things have occurred in a very short timeframe. There's a continued migration of people to the area, and now there seems to be a huge interest to live, work and play from where people work. The demand just seems to be increasing."

The demand is measurable due to the fact that newly announced projects in the area have either sold out or have received a great deal of buyer interest.

Ventana is just one of 12 projects in various stages of development in the Channel District.

When the Channel District residential community was envisioned, the idea was to have lofts across from cruise terminals.

Prices announced less than two years ago were starting at $155,000 in Channelside 212 Lofts and $150,000 in Victory Lofts.

All units at Victory Lofts and Channelside 212 have sold and are under contract.

All 260 units at the mixed-use The Towers have been reserved.

Now the emphasis is on larger, more expensive units with loads of amenities, such as concierge services and terrace pools with spa areas -- just like Ware's project. It's a shift in development focus that the city seems to welcome.

Wilson Stair, the City of Tampa's urban planning manager, said initially the city planners expected that the Channel District would be more lower priced than most of South Tampa, but that the area now has taken on a life of its own.

Mark Huey, the city's economic development manager, said the new mixed-use projects near downtown Tampa will add to the area's current entertainment offerings.

"The fact of the matter is that the downtown does have a great many things to offer the community," said Huey. "There's the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the aquarium and the Channel District Square that attract and keep people downtown. We just need to support those existing businesses and add to the mix."

Prices of the Ventana units start in the mid-$200,000s, with the four penthouse units pushing $1 million. Units will range from 1,125 to 2,600 square feet. Each residence will feature open floor plans and upgraded finishes, along with mezzanine terraces. Community amenities will include a pool and spa, fitness center, sauna and clubroom.

The project also will include boutique retail on the street level in two retail bays, both approximately 4,200 square feet, said Ware.

"We will break ground in first quarter 2005 and expect buildout within 15 months," said Ware.

Leading the design team for Ventana is the Tampa office of Walton H. Chancey and Associates Architects and Sandra B. Chancey Interior Design.

Hardin Construction has been selected as the general contractor for Ventana.

WilsonMiller will provide civil engineering, landscape architecture and surveying for the project.

 

September 24, 2004

Atlanta developer Michael Loia specializes in building new residential lofts that look like 1930s warehouses.

Loia, who has built lofts in Georgia's trendy Buckhead district, tells construction workers to leave holes in bricks and masons to make their work look sloppy and old.

Now he has set his sights on Tampa.

If the City Council approves his request for a zoning variance, he plans to erect a 39,000-square-foot residential building on a vacant lot at 210 N 12th St.

"I'm not interested in doing a contemporary project," said Loia, president of Loia Budde & Associates, an Atlanta architectural firm. "I'm interested in keeping the warm character of the brick and warm floors. I think that distinguishes me."

Loia and his business partners presented their initial design drawings to the Channel District Council on Tuesday night. The six-story building would house 28 to 30 lofts ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 square feet. One-bedroom to three-bedroom units would cost from $300,000 to the mid $400,000s, the developer said. The builders also expect to sell 2,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor. Fifty-six parking spaces would occupy the building's first two floors.

Loia and his partners expect to begin construction in May and complete the project in nine to 11 months. They sought the neighborhood's approval Tuesday night because their design calls for building 12 feet above the neighborhood's 60-foot height limit. The Channel District Council's executive board will vote on the project in the coming weeks.

"I'm pretty sure that we'll vote to support this one because it's one of the smaller ones," said Kim Markham, editor of the Channel District newsletter. "This is a no-brainer. It's a small building built by an experienced developer, a quality project."

Still, Markham said the group, which has voted to approve much larger structures, may ask for some concessions from the developers. She did not indicate what they might be.

Loia, who bought the property three months ago, is scouting additional sites in the Channel District.

"I just like that area," said Loia, who is already fielding calls from potential buyers for the 12th Street site. "I think it's got a great future."

Oct 20 2004,

Channel District: More condos on the horizon


Two proposed projects could bring more than 1,100 units. The City Council will consider the rezoning requests

The condo craze continues in the Channel District.

Two proposed projects could bring more than 1,100 units to the area.

Anthony Development Group wants the city to rezone land at 514 Channelside Drive to build 250 condominiums and 12,229 square feet of retail space. The property houses a warehouse and Newk's Cafe, a restaurant and bar that would be torn down, according to papers filed with the city of Tampa.

Crescent Heights, a Miami developer with projects throughout the country, seeks to rezone a parking lot on the northwest corner of Jefferson Street and Channelside Drive to make way for two 30-story towers with 855 condominiums and about 25,000 square feet of retail space.

The Tampa City Council is scheduled to consider both rezoning requests Nov. 4.

Thomas Newkirk, who owns Newk's Cafe, said Anthony Development Group approached him about buying his property, but discussions are preliminary. They have no contract and have not agreed upon a price for the land, Newkirk said. However, he agreed to let Anthony Development pursue the rezoning.

"They have no rights to my property," Newkirk said. "They have no rights to anything. I'm surprised they would spend the money to go forward without having some understanding of what I would want for my property."

Newkirk said he isn't looking to unload the real estate but is happy to entertain offers.

"Everything is for sale," he said.

The Newkirk family is one of the developers of the Meridian, 37 art-deco-style lofts


Crescent Heights last month paid $6.1-million for the property at Jefferson and Channelside Drive, said Shay Mayron, the company's regional manager. The company chose the location, he said, because it sees downtown Tampa in the midst of a transformation where people already work and play but need places to live.

"City living is becoming more popular," Mayron said. "People are moving out of suburbs."

Studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom homes will range from 600 to more than 2,000 square feet. They will cost from the high $100,000s to more than $500,000.

Both projects are among those planned to bring more than 5,500 homes to the Channel District and downtown business district.

January 10, 2005


January 7, 2005

Channelside's drive


TAMPA -- When Tampa developer Michael McGuinness breaks ground on two 30-story towers in the Channel District Jan. 17, he'll have more than $100 million in signed contracts in the bank. McGuinness said he's inspired to get the 257-unit The Towers project in the works while the getting is good.

He's not the only one inspired by the Channel District.

With decreasing large tracts of land available on the Bay area outskirts, the Channelside area saw a swarm of activity in 2004 in terms of plans and units announced. A Tampa Bay Business Journal inquiry has found as many as 6,000 units now are on the books or envisioned for the downtown district in view of the Port of Tampa.

That kind of volume elicits a range of reaction among the area's real estate community -- from elation to major concern.

The success of the Channelside development market depends strongly on whether or not developers can secure enough pre-sales to merit bank funding, said Jeff Hicks, president of the Dohring Group in Tampa. The firm specializes in commercial real estate appraising.

"We keep a library of neighborhoods for prospective buyers, and I have to keep updating the Channelside report because so many projects are breaking ground or being announced," Hicks said.

This volume, he said, could spell trouble for unwary developers.

"The reason a lot of real estate projects tanked in the 1980s was because the lenders weren't requiring pre-sales or pre-leasing, which made it (supply) get out of balance more quickly," Hicks said. "Most of these projects in Channelside are required to have a percentage of pre-leasing, which precludes a great deal of oversupply."

But there's currently a large number of investor buyers in the area, Hicks said. That can decrease the number of end-users and may also skew the perceived demand.

"If I were a bank, I wouldn't want to see a large number of 'token buyers' -- those that only risk anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 -- because that just makes it easier for them to back out," Hicks said.

The best option is to retain the greatest number of end-users -- those buyers that plan to live in the unit for an extended period of time.

"Most investors want to buy it at the pre-construction pricing and then flip the finished product for a quick profit, whereas the end-user would put more money down and take a greater risk," said Hicks. This, he explained, lessens the risk the developer assumes, which in turn reduces the lender's risk.

A banker's outlook


The investor mix is very important and most people don't want to see more than a 20-percent mix, said Dale R. Dignum, group president and CEO of Regions Bank in Tampa.

"Sometimes it is hard to determine, but owner-user is the most preferable from the standpoint of getting behind it," said Dignum. "Right now you have investors that are looking at the current market and watching appreciation. There's no assurance that it will continue to appreciate."

Dignum, like Hicks, harkens back to the 1980s real estate market where there was a point where the market ceased to appreciate.

"When the market stopped appreciating, investors had to weigh whether to flip it or to walk away from the project and lose the down payment," said Dignum. "When there is too much of this, there is a danger the project could fail."

Having the right mix of investors to end-users was a main starting point with his Towers project, developer McGuinness said.

"Basically, as you go along with the project like ours, you have to have a close relationship with your lender," said McGuinness. "We are limiting our investors to 20 percent, and we made it a priority from the beginning to ensure success by getting our project under way while the market was still very strong."

McGuinness' project, which has 190 of the 257 units under contract, is one of the first projects with more than 200 units to break ground downtown.

What the city has seen up until now has been smaller projects such as the 28-unit Channelside Lofts 212.

Many of the other smaller loft projects downtown are benefiting from the market created by the successful "base-amenity" loft project completed almost two years ago, Wilson Stair, Tampa's urban design manager, said.

The $3.2-million project sold out within its initial six-month construction period. The units, of which no two are the same, ranged from $155,000 to $305,000.

"(Channelside) Lofts 212 really primed the pump for this market," said Stair. "That's really what showed that the loft market could sell in the Tampa Bay area. There is a growing number of empty nesters and young professionals who want to live within an urban area."

Uncharted territory


But it's hard to gauge demand in downtown Tampa because of lack of precedence, said Marvin Rose, publisher of Rose Residential Reports Inc. in Tarpon Springs, which tracks new residential construction in the Bay area.

"There's really nothing to compare it to other than what's happened on Harbour Island," said Rose. "But looking at that history, there seems to be a pent-up demand for downtown housing. If all the planned units were going to come on line at the same time, there would be cause for concern, but that's not going to happen."

National demographics tend to support the speculation that demand will eat up the Channel District's supply.

While household size continues to shrink, the country's population is projected to grow by 60 million during the next 20 years, said Maureen L. McAvey, senior resident fellow for the Urban Land Institute, at a Tampa Downtown Partnership forum last year. Most of this increase will be felt in 17 states, Florida being one.

"By all accounts, throughout the nation, the need for housing units will skyrocket as the number of households without young children continues to climb and young professionals move back to the city," McAvey said. "Tampa has the infrastructure to succeed in its transformation to a 24-hour, urban city. You've defined the bones through its amenities. Now it is time to add the frame, which includes housing."

And the project announcements keep flooding in to the city.

St. Petersburg developer Roger Gatewood goes before Tampa zoning officials Jan. 13 seeking approval to build a $100-million mixed-use village, complete with 360 units in 14-stories in the Channel District.

The project also anticipates shops and office space among its four buildings between Meridian Avenue and 12th Street, bordered by Whiting Street and Cumberland Avenue.

Dignum said that from what he's seen, demand for Channelside projects, even the ones that include 200 to 300 units, has been very strong. However, he also said that those still are the smaller of the projects and that the larger ones, with 600 to 800 units, will bear the burden of the market's future.

"These developers are pioneers and taking the risk, but the first ones also have the benefit of a pent-up demand," said Dignum. "Some of these projects are long-term, and there has to be a concern as to what the market will be in two to three years."

 

February 13, 2004

Channel District redevelopment appearing more doable

TAMPA -- Redevelopment of Tampa's Channel District continues to raise more questions than "coming soon" signs in the currently industrialized area just north of Channelside Drive.  

The developers involved say those questions will take the next five years to answer.

From proposed renovation of a 1920s-era warehouse to construction of an elaborate "space needle" tower, numerous commercial and residential projects are under way or on the drawing boards within the three-block area across Garrison Channel from ritzy Harbour Island. At least a dozen projects worth nearly half a billion dollars have been announced so far.

Although some of the talk about a "new" Channel District has gone on for much of the past decade, several nearby components have come along in that time that provide a support structure for upcoming development -- namely the Florida Aquarium, St. Pete Times Forum and the city's cruise terminals.

"It's not a stretch anymore to say it's plausible. A lot of the key pieces are already in place," said Ray Sandelli, senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis who will become chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership this summer.

The partnership is interested in the Channel District's progress because of the dynamic effect it can have on Tampa's central business district as a whole, whether providing more shopping and entertainment options for downtown workers and residents, or attracting more University of Tampa students into the city core.

However, it may take a little effort to convince prospective downtown residents that the new-and-improved Channel District won't be limited strictly to the wealthy. Prices for many of the area's proposed housing units are more on par with Harbour Island and Bayshore Boulevard than suburban Tampa.

Some developers are conscious of the targeted demographic for the as-yet-unproven area. For example, the 422-unit Grand Central condominium project is pre-pricing most of its residences below the $250,000 threshold.

"I have no doubt in my mind there is demand," said Ken Stoltenberg, director of Mercury Advisors and developer of Grand Central. He said the development's promotional Web site, received more than 350,000 responses over the past month.

Stoltenberg said all proposed developments in the Channel District have a good chance at success as long as they form and follow solid business plans. Grand Central's plan, besides widespread marketing for presales, includes developing 127,000 square feet of ground-level retail space that will offer goods and services to residents on upper floors as well as downtown employees, he said.

 

Urban Appeal Pays Off In The Channel District xxxxxxxxxxx

  

TAMPA - Channel District developer Doug Weber was thrilled to hear that nearly all 260 units at The Towers have been reserved.

Weber's Seaport Town Center won't break ground until next year, and his 200-plus units mostly will be rentals. But he thinks the more success other developers have in the area, the better his chances to charge upscale rent, close to what neighboring Harbour Island gets.

``These pre-sales are important,'' he said of the 12 projects in various stages of development in the Channel District. ``They offer a real glimpse of what the market dictates as far as sale and rental prices.''

Weber said The Towers hit its price point, with most units selling for $275,000 to $375,000 in the twin towers to be built across from the complex.

``Now they're probably wishing they had charged more,'' he said.

When the Channel District residential community was envisioned, the idea was to have austere lofts in a funky neighborhood.

Prices announced less than two years ago were starting at $155,000 in Channelside 212 Lofts, and $150,000 in Victory Lofts.

Some units from other developers are less than $250,000, but most of them are efficiencies or one-bedroom units.

Now the emphasis is on larger, more expensive units with loads of amenities, such as concierge services and terrace pools with spa areas.

``In the initial stage, we all thought the Channel District would be more lower priced than most of South Tampa,'' said Tampa's urban planning manager, Wilson Stair. ``But this area has taken off on a life of its own.''

Stair, a city staff member for 15 years, said he has never seen anything like the sudden explosion in Channel District residential property.

``The prices might eventually readjust because of the growing competition,'' he said. ``But I'm as surprised as anyone that people in the upper economic bracket want to live there.''

Stair said the reason may be that Harbour Island is built out. Also, he said, the stigma of urban living has faded.

``The Channel District just isn't any urban area, too. It's interesting there with the mix of port industry, The Florida Aquarium and the Times Forum,'' he said.

Nick Pavonetti, who is overseeing The Beck Group's Victory Lofts project, said ``the people who bought early made a very good investment.''

Of its 89 units, Victory has four penthouses remaining, priced at about $850,000.

``The prices were bound to go up,'' said Bill Ware, who is building an 84-unit project, called Ventana, Prices start in the mid- $200,000s.

Ware said buyers also are demanding more. He plans 24- hour concierge service, a terrace pool area with fitness room, two parking spaces per unit, storage lockers and verandas.

``That's why I've been so careful not to prematurely come out with a list of prices set in stone,'' Ware said. ``A lot will also depend on building costs and whether they continue to climb.''

Truett Gardner, developer of the Meridian, made the mistake of setting prices too soon.

The Meridian's 35 units were priced from $200,000 to $450,000. After building costs went up, Gardner had to cancel contracts. Prices have climbed to $245,000 to $500,000, and he has been able to add two more units.

The Tampa lawyer since has sold 21 units in the art deco building and plans to finish construction by next year.

``It was funny with us, but the higher-end units went first,'' he said.

Brooks Byrd, vice president of Byrd Corp., said the company never planned to sell for less than $200,000 at the Downtown Channelside complex. The 250 units in two 30-story towers with shops and restaurants will range from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet.

``We're on the water so this is premium real estate,'' Byrd said.

Because of rising building costs, he is careful in quoting prices. ``We'll do more detailed design drawings,'' he said.

Byrd said he hopes to put a sales center on the property late this fall and to begin construction early next year.

Byrd, whose family built the GrandView, said he is excited to begin building on the 1.8-acre parking lot.

``I read the study from the Downtown Tampa Partnership about the pent-up demand for downtown housing,'' Byrd said. ``You never know what to believe of these studies. But this one sounds true.''


TAMPA - Most people see abandoned warehouses when they drive into the Channelside District. Marica McKeel sees downtown Tampa's first urban neighborhood.


Marica McKeel hopes to develop a warehouse into lofts in the Channelside District. The area near the Florida Aquarium is fast becomming a trendy place to live.


The 24-year-old Tampa native's vision is on its way to becoming a reality.

Twenty-three people live in the neighborhood between Ybor City and
downtown, bordered by Channelside Drive, the Leroy Selmon Crosstown
Expressway and railroad tracks. All but two of them are artists. Soon they will have new neighbors.

McKeel, an intern architect at RBK Architects of Tampa and partner in
Adama Development of Tampa, has begun work on Channelside 212 lofts.

It's a project the North Carolina State graduate believes so strongly
in, she is putting her own money into its development.

McKeel and her financial partner, 36-year-old Bryan Guyton, have an
option to buy two warehouses on 12th Street between Washington Street
and Kennedy Boulevard.

They have deposits on 17 of the 18-loft homes to be built. Guyton
said work will begin as soon as financing can be worked out with the
Bank of Tampa.

``I didn't think it would happen this quickly,'' Guyton said. ``It
has taken me by surprise.''

Guyton said the bank needs the project's amended declarations, the
amended contract for purchase of sale and the articles of
incorporation for the home owners association before they can get
that commitment letter.

And McKeel needs to turn the site plans into the city of Tampa.

Guyton and McKeel expect construction to begin by April.

The Channelside 212 lofts will range from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet
and will cost $155,000 to $315,000. All but one of the most expensive
units have been sold.

McKeel said the idea to convert warehouse space in the Channelside
District into lofts came to her shortly after she returned home to
Tampa from school.

``I had been driving past the area every day on my way to work and
got to thinking, these empty warehouses need to be used,'' she said.

``As far as becoming a developer, I didn't set out to do that,''
McKeel said. ``The opportunity just kind of fell into my lap.''

The intern architect position with RBK Architects of Tampa is
McKeel's second job in the field. Right out of college, she worked
for a preservation architect.

When she returned to Tampa, McKeel said, she sought a job that fit
her style a little better.

``My whole family is in engineering, my mom, my uncle and my
grandfather, so I guess that's where my feel for the technical side
of architecture comes from.''

McKeel's partner, Guyton, has been working in commercial development
since 1990. His company, Guyton Energy Corporation, has built 14
Texaco/Shell stations in Central Florida.

``I want to do something significant in Tampa,'' Guyton said. ``And
this is a great idea; something that has been lacking in Tampa for
along time.

``[McKeel] may be young, but it's not necessarily age, it's what a
person brings to the table,'' Guyton said.

McKeel designed five floor plans for Channelside 212 lofts.

``They are open, flexible plans,'' she said. ``There aren't many
walls. I did that because I don't like definition. I'm all about
flexibility.''

McKeel said her No. 1 concern when she sat down and started designing
floor plans for the lofts was maintaining the industrial feel of the
neighborhood.

``On the outside, we're keeping the warehouse look, but adding stoops
in the front. There will also be wood on the exterior finish where we
cut into the building to create the courtyard.

``Of course, residents will add their own homey touch with things
like hanging up plants on their balconies,'' McKeel said.

People who live in the neighborhood say they can't wait until
McKeel's project is complete.

``I think it's a great vision. It's good for everyone, the entire
neighborhood and community. I really commend her for what she's
pursuing,'' said Dominique Martinez, a metal sculptor who lives in a
warehouse down the street.

``She's filling a demand that's been there for a long time,'' said
Kim Markham, who has lived in a warehouse on Meridian Avenue for the
past six months.

``People are constantly coming to this neighborhood, knocking on my
door, and asking ... Where can I live? Can I rent something? Can I
buy something? And we tell them, no, there's nothing. You've got to
buy a warehouse and convert it.

``This is the first time a developer has actually come in and is
doing the leg work,'' Markham said.

Pinnacle chief: Tower still a go in spite of downturn

 The developer of a proposed retail-entertainment complex featuring a 625-foot observation tower as its centerpiece said he plans to break ground on the project by the end of this year.  

Frank DeBose, president of Pinnacle Group Holdings Inc., said he plans to proceed with the $250-million development even though the U.S. economy has been rocked by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

DeBose plans to go before the Tampa City Council on Oct. 25 to request rezoning of Pinnacle's 12-acre site

The request would change part of the property from commercial to residential to allow for development of upscale apartments.

"We shouldn't have any problems, but it's never done until it's done," DeBose said at a recent meeting of Channelside area business owners and residents.

DeBose, who has been touting the Pinnacle of Tampa Bay project since 1995, promised to deliver the tower and surrounding restaurants, shops and theaters by the end of 2003.

The tower would be the Bay area's tallest structure, exceeding the 100 North Tampa building by nearly 50 feet. Debose estimated it will attract as many as 2 million visitors a year, with the capacity for 1,000 people at a time on its observation deck.

DeBose maintained that he has solid sources of financing for the project, even after Sept. 11. Wall Street's negative reaction the week after the attacks led many capital sources to become more restrictive than they already were.

"We have all our commitments in place," DeBose said.

He wouldn't be specific about who those investors are, other than saying they are "all out of state."

The only effect to anticipate with the project related to the attacks is a delay in window glass deliveries, since manufacturers may be concentrating on filling orders to replace broken panes on buildings in New York, DeBose said.

DeBose remains adamant that the project will begin on time. 

When the Channel District residential community was envisioned, the idea was to have austere lofts in a funky neighborhood

Prices announced less than two years ago were starting at $155,000 in Channelside 212 Lofts, and $150,000 in Victory Lofts

Some units from other developers are less than $250,000, but most of them are efficiencies or one-bedroom units.

Now the emphasis is on larger, more expensive units with loads of amenities, such as concierge services and terrace pools with spa areas.

``In the initial stage, we all thought the Channel District would be more lower priced than most of South Tampa,'' said Tampa's urban planning manager, Wilson Stair. ``But this area has taken off on a life of its own.''

Stair, a city staff member for 15 years, said he has never seen anything like the explosion in Channel District residential property.

``The prices might eventually readjust because of the growing competition,'' he said. ``But I'm as surprised as anyone that people in the upper economic bracket want to live there.''

Stair said the reason may be that Harbour Island is built out. Also, he said, the stigma of urban living has faded.

``The Channel District just isn't any urban area, too. It's interesting there with the mix of port industry, The Florida Aquarium and the Times Forum,'' he said.

Nick Pavonetti, who is overseeing The Beck Group's Victory Lofts project, said ``the people who bought early made a very good investment.''

Of its 89 units, Victory has four penthouses remaining, priced at about $850,000.

``The prices were bound to go up,'' said Bill Ware, who is building an 84-unit project, called Ventana,. Prices start in the mid- $200,000s.

Ware said buyers also are demanding more. He plans 24- hour concierge service, a terrace pool area with fitness room, two parking spaces per unit, storage lockers and verandas.

``That's why I've been so careful not to prematurely come out with a list of prices set in stone,'' Ware said. ``A lot will also depend on building costs and whether they continue to climb.''

Truett Gardner, developer of the Meridian, made the mistake of setting prices too soon.

The Meridian's 35 units were priced from $200,000 to $450,000. After building costs went up, Gardner had to cancel contracts. Prices have climbed to $245,000 to $500,000, and he has been able to add two more units.

The Tampa lawyer since has sold 21 units in the art deco building and plans to finish construction by next year.

``It was funny with us, but the higher-end units went first,'' he said.

Brooks Byrd, vice president of Byrd Corp., said the company never planned to sell for less than $200,000 at the Downtown Channelside complex next to Channelside. The 250 units in two 30-story towers with shops and restaurants will range from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet.

``We're on the water so this is premium real estate,'' Byrd said.

Because of rising building costs, he is careful in quoting prices. ``We'll do more detailed design drawings,'' he said.

Byrd said he hopes to put a sales center on the property late this fall and to begin construction early next year.

Byrd, whose family built the GrandView in Harbour Island, said he is excited to begin building on the 1.8-acre parking lot.

``I read the study from the Downtown Tampa Partnership about the pent-up demand for downtown housing,'' Byrd said. ``You never know what to believe of these studies. But this one sounds true.''

 

 

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