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New Tampa

Highlands switching from rentals to condos

The new owners will refurbish the Hunter's Green apartments before the conversion, which could take two years.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003


HUNTER'S GREEN -- Twelve years after it began, leasing at the Highlands in Hunter's Green is headed the way of Betamax tape and Crystal Pepsi.

The new owners of the 272-unit apartment complex near the rear of the development are planning to convert all of the units to condominiums.

But not before refurbishing them inside and out.

Barry Lichtman, an administrator with SunVest Resorts Inc., beamed with pride as he gave a tour of the site earlier this week.

"You won't recognize it when we're done because it's basically going to be a brand new community," said Lichtman, a former real estate broker in South Florida.

SunVest, based in Hollywood, Fla., plans to revamp the apartments, he said, and replace the floors, the fixtures and the porch screens. New exercise and laundry equipment will soon arrive at the clubhouse, and dog parks will be set up around the site.

Workers recently painted the clubhouse a warm beige, and Lichtman said all of the apartments eventually will be painted over.

Prices have not been set on the one-bedroom to three-bedroom condos, but they are expected to be in the $65,000-$125,000 range. No sales can be made until about mid May.

Built in 1990, the first Highlands apartments leased the following year. Originally it was not intended to be a permanent apartment complex, but as a temporary dwelling for people building a house in Hunter's Green.

SunVest bought the complex last month and the sale leaves one apartment complex on Hunter's Green property, the upscale Vinings. But the Vinings, with its own private entrance, retains a layer of separation from the rest of Hunter's Green. Drivers who enter Hunter's Green's two main entrances are not able to access the Vinings via the roadways.

The conversion from renters to owners at the Highlands will not occur overnight. Lichtman said it might take almost two full years.

As of now, 28 apartments are ready to be converted. Once completed, the complex will operate under its own condo owners association.

Whether Hunter's Green's character will change with more owners and fewer renters remains to be seen. Concerned about speeding traffic, the community is now contemplating speed tables on its private roads. Highland Oaks Drive, with Hunter's Green Elementary school at one end and the Highlands, is especially problematic, residents say.

Ann Johnson, the community's association manager, said she wasn't sure whether speeding would decrease. But she thought the prospect of condo owners could only bring good things.

"Owners have a vested interest in their property," Johnson said.

She also predicted less turnover as owners settled into their condos for years.

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com .

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