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For tony development's success, just add water

An enclave of palatial homes takes advantage of one of the last remaining bayfront tracts in Hillsborough.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 17, 2002

BAY CREST -- It's a view local developer Bobby Alvarez hoped would be so spectacular that a handful of home buyers would be willing to plunk down a couple million dollars just to own.

He wasn't disappointed.

From a Tampa Bay Buccaneer to the scion of a local development family, they're buying into The Reserve of Old Tampa Bay, an enclave of palatial homes on a peninsula off Memorial Highway, one of the last remaining bayfront tracts in Hillsborough County.

"I just immediately fell in love with the view," said John R. "Hi" Sierra Jr., a local developer whose father masterminded the walled community of Avila in the '70s. By this time next year Sierra will enjoy a waterfront view from the third story of his $2-million home.

"It's like a little jewel," he said. "A little leftover jewel."

The high-priced home sites in this subdivision by the sea are going up on a 15-acre peninsula off Memorial Highway in Town 'N Country on lots that cost from $200,000 to $395,000.

The total package, lot and house, range from $850,000 to $2-million.

Sierra, responding to the siren song of the open sea, will leave the walled luxury of Avila, where he has lived for 20 years, for his own slice of Old Tampa Bay and dockside access to open waters.

"I'll be able to keep my boat at the dock and not get bounced around by 5-foot waves," Sierra said. "This is one of the few places you can do that."

A deep water channel protects boats from the high seas.

Alvarez said he expects buildout to take about a year and a half. At that time there will be 34 homes on 70- by 130-foot waterfront lots, most with docks.

So far, three of the homes are occupied with 12 others under construction.

"The biggest market in the county is for waterfront, which is running out very quickly," Alvarez said.

The 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot custom built homes each will have a different facade, from French chateau to Mediterranean.

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 269-5308 or

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