By FRED W. WRIGHT JR.
Tim Tinsley has logged a lot of miles on Interstate 4 in the past six years, commuting periodically between his home and office in Orlando and the St. Petersburg headquarters of his company, Echelon Residential.
He says that's his "thinking" time. "I've been doing it so long, it's actually an enjoyable drive," Tinsley said.
Now he has even more to think about.
Tinsley, president of Echelon Residential, has taken on the additional title and responsibilities of chief executive. The job requires him to visit other Echelon properties as well, in Dallas and Memphis.
"I'm responsible for the operations of the multifamily company," he said. This includes acquisition, development, construction and property management, he said, "as well as financial and disposition."
"Part of our business is that we're merchant builders. We'll develop, construct and manage apartment communities and then we will sell them to institutions, mostly pension funds," he said.
Echelon Residential is a privately owned real estate company that is affiliated with commercial developer Echelon Development LLC. It manages approximately 2,000 residential units, Tinsley said.
Tampa Bay area properties include the 314-unit Echelon at the Reserve, located within the Carillon Corporate Park on Ulmerton Road, and Echelon at Bay Isle Key on Ninth Street N, St. Petersburg. That's a 369-unit "Class A" apartment complex, meaning it has "upscale appointments and amenities such as a community center with a full workout facility, a business center for residents, clubhouse, conference room, directly access garages, intrusion alarms and higher 9-foot ceilings," he said.
"We're also getting ready to break ground on 213 apartment homes at Echelon at Bay Isle Key," Tinsley said. This second phase will break ground in April or May, he said, with the first units available for lease within nine months.
Another project is the McNulty Lofts in downtown St. Petersburg. Echelon Residential owns the parking garage located where the McNulty Firehouse, 101 Second St. S, was located. The property will have four levels of office space and plus five-and-a-half levels of living space, Tinsley said.
The property is about 50 percent presold, he said, and will be true lofts with 11-foot, 4-inch ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, brick walls, exposed air-conditioning ducts and granite surfaces. "There will be great views of the city on the west, the (Sunshine) Skyway bridge from the south" and Tampa Bay, Tinsley said.
Echelon Residential draws a wide variety of customers, he said. "In St. Petersburg, we've hit a fairly broad market in our communities -- the 20-somethings all the way up to the empty nesters who have sold their homes and want to simplify their lifestyles."
Prior to joining Echelon Residential, Tinsley was vice president of development for Zom Development, a multifamily developer in Winter Park, for more than three years. He also was vice president of Picerne Development, also in Winter Park, for more than six years.
Tinsley earned a bachelor's in business administration from the University of Georgia in 1981 and an MBA from Rollins College in Winter Park in 1984. Upon graduation, Tinsley began working as a corporate lender with Southeast Banks in Miami, later transferring to Orlando.
But he wasn't satisfied with the pace of the banking business.
"I just wanted something a little bit more," Tinsley said. "Banking is a great career but I was looking for something to move a little faster." So, at 28, he turned to the classified ads in the newspaper and found a job as an assistant developer, learning the industry "from the ground up."
Now 44, Tinsley said he still enjoys his career choice. "It's a blast -- something different every day. Every stage of your development has different opportunities," he said. "You get to help someone figure out where they want to live . . . one of the most emotional decisions they'll ever make and one of the largest investments."
Tinsley said he enjoys seeing projects grow from concept to construction. "You get to see physically the results of your decisions, good, bad or indifferent," he said. "It's fun. That's the whole idea behind this business -- it's fun."
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