6 bids offered for museum property
But the highest offer for the Florida International Museum site comes in an hour late and is not on the official list.
By CARRIE JOHNSON
Published July 29, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - The bids are in for the Florida International Museum property, and at best, the city would barely recoup the millions it poured into the struggling museum.
The city received six official proposals for the downtown parcel. Most include a mix of office space, condominiums and hotel rooms, and offer between $4-million and $6-million for the land.
The city spent $6-million to buy the museum land and building. The City Council forgave $1-million in unpaid rent when the museum decided in January to move to a smaller place.
Some City Council members already have expressed concerns about the bids.
"We're not going to give that property away," said council member Earnest Williams. "We want to get the absolute best price we can for the parcel ... That might mean putting the whole thing up for another bid."
The council plans to discuss the bids at an Aug. 10 workshop and could vote as early as Aug. 12.
Economic Development Director Ron Barton said the amount spent on Florida International is irrelevant at this point. "What we put into the building has nothing to do with its market value," he said. "The two are not synonymous."
Competition for the parcel, bounded by First Avenue N and Sunshine Lane and Second and Third streets, began last month after Progress Energy said it wants to build the first new downtown office tower in almost 15 years.
Progress Energy offered $1.5-million for less than half of the parcel, leaving the remainder open for development. Council members called the bid "unacceptable" and decided to seek others.
The highest offer, however, isn't included in the official list because it came in an hour after the deadline. Joel Cantor, who renovated the former William C. Cramer federal office building and turned it into the BayView Tower in 1999, pledged $9-million for the parcel and wouldn't ask the city to demolish the existing building, which could cost as much as $1.5-million.
Council member Jay Lasita said he's inclined to consider Cantor's proposal, which includes space for offices, hotel rooms, retail and condominiums.
"He's talking $9-million," Lasita said. "And we're only talking about an hour. Unless somebody got really hot and bothered about it, I wouldn't mind having that in the mix as well."
Barton, who hopes to have a recommendation for the council by the workshop, said it will be up to council members whether to include Cantor's proposal in their decision.
The three official bids for the entire parcel all plan for a mixed-use of office space, hotel rooms, condominiums and retail space.
St. Petersburg developer Grady Pridgen offered $6-million, or $75 per square foot, if the city will demolish the building. The cost of his project is estimated at $100-million.
Progress Energy submitted a new bid, joining Orlando developer Richard Kessler for a luxury hotel and 30-80 condominiums in addition to the office building.
In this bid, Progress Energy offered $4-million if the city pays for demolition, or $3-million as is. That works out to $50 or $37.50 per square foot, respectively, about matching its previous offer.
"We're very committed to downtown St. Petersburg," said Aaron Perlut, Progress Energy spokesman."We already have a very strong employee base here in downtown and we want to double that, at least."
But some council members said they thought the offer was a little low.
"To come in with the same figures, it's a little disappointing," said council chairman Bill Foster.
Bill Henry, with Tampa's Reliable Group, would pay $5.9-million for a cleared lot, or $73 per square foot. He proposed a 24-story mix of office, residential, hotel and retail.
Progress Energy's initial bid for half the parcel is on the list so two groups bid on the remaining property.
Miles Properties Inc., an Atlanta development company that plans to build 100 new loft-style homes and townhomes in the city's Dome District, offered $3.1-million or $62.50 per square foot for a cleared parcel to build a 200-unit residential tower with 30,000 square feet of retail.
The Liberty Group of Companies of St. Pete Beach wants to buy about half the cleared parcel for $2.2-million or $1-million as is for a mid-range hotel with 120 rooms and 86 residential units.
Council member James Bennett said he'll be eager to see the administration's analysis of the bids, but is pleased the council will have a range of options to consider when looking at the property.
"For once, we're in the driver's seat," he said. "That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago."
- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 727 892-2273 or email@example.com
[Last modified July 28, 2004, 23:58:22]
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