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Carlton Towers may go condos

An Orlando developer plans some units for under $100,000 and a new name: The Beacon on Third Street.

By SHARON L. BOND, Neighborhood Times Business Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Another older building downtown is in line to become condominiums, and this one will have some units priced below $100,000.

Carlton Towers, built by apartment developer Thomas Mahaffey Jr. in 1963 and described by the Times as swank and elegant when it opened, is under contract to an Orlando developer. John H. Marling wants to covert the 183 apartments in the Y-shaped building at 470 Third St. S to for-sale residences.

The name will be changed to the Beacon on Third Street. Prices for the condominiums are expected to range from $69,000 to $200,000.

"We've been looking down here for the right condominium opportunity. Carlton Towers appears to be a pretty good condominium conversion candidate," Marling said.

The asking price for Carlton Towers is $13.5-million. Marling said he will pay slightly more because there is competition for the 10-story highrise, which sits near the downtown waterfront and offers views of Tampa Bay. It also has a swimming pool and rooftop garden. The garden has fabulous potential, Marling said.

"It's such a nice building," he said. "The University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus is doing really exciting things. I think downtown St. Petersburg has figured out a lot of things other towns are trying to figure out." Marling was referring to downtown's renaissance and the expansion of the university, which is across Fifth Avenue S from Carlton Towers.

He is not aiming to attract college students necessarily, although he said some parents might consider the condos more economical for their children than renting. The building is a good one for young professionals, he said.

Marling plans $4-million in improvements, including a new roof, a fire prevention system and construction of a parking deck that will add about 90 spaces. A room on the ground floor where bicycles now are stored will be turned into an exercise room. The restaurant, which closed last year, may be reopened as a private club.

He said work could be under way by May 1 and purchases of the condominiums completed by July or August.

Compared to the elegant old Mediterranean Revival buildings downtown and the new ones built in the same style, Carlton Towers suffers. It has that 1960s institutional look. And it is worn. The white exterior paint is peeling, giving the north side a scaly look. Marling said the building will be repainted something other than the white "veterans' hospital look," maybe a putty gray/green.

The current owners renovated apartment interiors about five years ago so Marling has no plans to redo them.

Carlton Towers has nine different floor plans, ranging from a 453-square-foot studio to a 1,119-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath unit. Marling said he will leave the apartment footprints as they are unless a buyer wants to buy two small units to covert to one larger one. He also hopes current tenants will buy their apartments and stay.

"The youngest person in the building is 19 to 20 years old and the oldest person is 80 or a little higher. Our goal is to keep it exactly the same," Marling said. Already there are 40 to 50 units empty because of the impending change, he said.

Marling said he would do what he could to help renters buy their apartments.

"There are programs available, and you can get pretty good financing right now." He said he hasn't talked to the tenants because he did not feel that would be proper until the deal is closed.

"A lot of tenants wonder what is going on and rightly so. We want to let them know who we are and the fact that we are fixing up the property substantially."

Marling's company is Investors Realty LTD. Inc., the same developer whose $20-million project in Safety Harbor, Harborside, was just approved.

Marling said he expects to close on Carlton Towers, now owned by an investment company from Nashville, Tenn., by month's end. Partners in the project with him are his wife, Heidi, and his brother Jules. They have a 50 percent share, and Barclay Group of Clearwater has 50 percent, Marling said. Some local investors, whom Marling would not identify, eventually may be involved. Wedding, Stephenson & Ibaraguen Architects of St. Petersburg is doing the design work.

In the last couple of years, a number of downtown buildings have been converted to condominiums or are in the process. The Detroit Hotel, after several false starts, now is 24 condominiums with prices ranging from $159,000 to $290,000. Snell Arcade, a historic landmark used mostly for offices, is being converted to 11 condominiums in the $300,000 range. Another landmark, the YMCA, will become 15 condominiums with prices starting at $400,000.

Carlton Towers sits across Delmar Terrace S from the Madison, two new buildings of luxury apartments where base rents range from $850 to $1,734 per month. More is charged for certain floors and views. In the past five years, three luxury condominium complexes have been built downtown and two more are in the planning stages. Prices on the ones already built range from $300,000 to $2-million.

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