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Family still has stake in Beach Drive

The Hamilton "kids" make a swap that will keep them involved in the Opus condo towers.

Published February 11, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The family that owned the 400 block of Beach Drive NE traded the land for interest in two condo towers, one to be built there and one already under construction on the block to the south.

The John M. Hamilton family will own the retail space in both towers as well as six to eight condominiums, said Bob Churuti, Hamilton's son-in-law.

In the two towers, that will add up to about 50,000 square feet of shops on one of the city's most prestigious streets. Downtown's renaissance was propelled in part by two condominium projects on other blocks of Beach Drive NE.

"We have basically traded interest in our property to be involved in both," Churuti said Monday. "Dr. Hamilton always wanted to see retail on Beach Drive be as elegant as possible. The deal with Opus (the developer) includes us maintaining ownership of all of the retail space."

The "us" includes Churuti and three Hamilton brothers: Scott, Courtnay and John Jr.

"The kids are actually doing this," Churuti said.

The towers are being developed by Opus South Corp. Construction began last month on the 300 block project called Parkshore Plaza, which includes a 29-story tower. The project will have about 25,000 square feet of retail space in lower buildings surrounding the tower.

"We structured a deal where they can continue to receive returns over the long run," said Jerry T. Shaw, senior vice president for Opus. "We are happy to be working with them."

He said it was a unique deal for Opus but one that followed what the Hamiltons wanted to do with the land. When the sale to Opus was announced last year, the Hamiltons declined to say what they received for it.

John Hamilton Sr. spent 40 years accumulating the various parcels in the 400 block of Beach Drive. His medical office was there as well as the family's property management offices. He wanted the block to be developed on a long-term lease with the family still owning it.

Initially, an unknown developer named Paul Morris agreed to a 99-year lease and planned an elaborate condominium project called the Villas with twin towers. Businesses began leaving the 400 block of Beach Drive in anticipation of the development.

However, Morris had little experience with developments of such scale and had a bankruptcy in his past. Even though his plan was approved by the St. Petersburg City Council, partly because of the Hamiltons' standing in the community, it never materialized. Opus announced early last year it would buy the property.

Development of the 300 block is first, however. Parkshore Plaza, a $100-million project, is expected to be finished early in 2006.

Churuti said he and the Hamiltons are learning how to lease condominium retail space and will go after tenants when they return from the International Shopping Center Association show in Las Vegas in May. Stores probably will be no smaller than 1,000 square feet.

"Opus has introduced us to people who have been doing this on a large scale," Churuti said. The family wants a "good mix of local people" for tenants, said Churuti, defining "local" as "all of Florida."

Opus has some conditions on tenant choice, including minimum size, but Shaw said those conditions are very flexible.

Who bought the grand penthouse?

Condominiums in the Parkshore Plaza tower are priced, depending on size, from $560,000 to $1.1-million. Five penthouses are on the top three floors and are priced between $2.25-million and $3.5-million. All five are sold.

Carl Lindell, owner of car dealerships, bought the grand penthouse, which takes up the entire 29th floor. He now lives in Tampa.

"I do like the development very much," he said. "I love downtown St. Petersburg."

Lindell said designers are working on an "incredible penthouse" for him but he may never live there.

"Nevertheless, it is a great investment. It is certainly one of the best locations in west Florida," Lindell said.

Churuti said he and his wife, Susan, who is the county attorney in Pinellas and a Hamilton, will have a condominium on the 23rd floor of Parkshore Plaza. Her parents, Dr. Hamilton and his wife, Imy, will be next door.

Churuti said he did not know the prices of the units because they just chose them. He identified them as the Anacapri North and South and said that each has 3,100 square feet and faces the bay.

The prices that Opus has advertised for the Anacapri South are $865,000 to $1.1-million, and for the Anacapri North, $849,000 to $1.1-million.

Churuti said other family members plan to live in the tower in the 400 block of Beach Drive.

[Last modified February 11, 2004, 01:32:01]

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