Townhomes add to shift as N 4th Street transforms

The street's complexion is changing as longstanding mobile home parks, houses and businesses are replaced by new residential and commercial uses.

Published August 13, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - A new townhome development is adding to momentum that is turning the north Fourth Street corridor into a modern node of population and business.

"We're becoming our own enclave up here," said Tom Quartetti, whose Sun Ketch Townhomes at Northeast along First Street is joining townhomes and shopping strips in the vicinity of 54th Avenue N. "It's changing the whole neighborhood."

The Sun Ketch development replaces the Pinehaven Mobile Home Park that Quartetti bought last year for $2.5-million. He and his father, Ralph, are replacing the 68 mobile homes with 42 two-story townhomes arrayed in conventional urban fashion with garages in the rear and front-facing yards.

"The city has been asking people to keep garages from facing the right-of-way," Tom Quartetti said. "This makes for a better streetscape."

The Sun Ketch project joins Bay Breeze Cove just west of Fourth Street that displaced two mobile home parks. That two-phase townhome development has already sold 171 units and will soon start on 165 more. In front of that development are two new strip malls and across from them is a new bank.

Quartetti said he could have built more units on his 3.5-acre parcel but he wanted to have a more subdued impact on the neighborhood and wanted to have larger units. The two available floor plans are both slightly larger than 2,300 square feet but also have front yards, walled courtyards and detached garages that include a second-story "man or woman cave" bonus room with a half bath.

The complex is built around an existing alley so the new homeowners will access their garages from behind. The entire complex is surrounded by a three-foot-high wrought-iron fence that, Quartetti said, still allows the development to connect with the surrounding community.

Units will range in price from $420,000 to $445,000 and could be ready for occupancy as early as next March. Quartetti said he has only just begun marketing the complex and so doesn't have a lot of interest yet, but is confident the homes will sell. He said the recent lull in home and condominium sales is mostly the result of investors leaving a market they didn't understand.

"It's kind of good that things have slowed down," he said. "It's knocked some of the novices out of the marketplace."

Projects like the Northeast townhomes are par for the course for Sun Ketch Communities, which has built some 500 units throughout Pinellas County since 1990, Quartetti said. One large development, 280 units in Treasure Island, stands out but most other projects are like a recently completed 18-unit Venetian Isles development.

"We do one project at a time," Quartetti said. "If we can keep finding in-fill sites in Pinellas County, we'll keep doing it."

Quartetti said the Clearwater company has no specific projects on the table now, but the area around its latest townhomes continues to be ripe for redevelopment. He said there are other mobile home parks there that could well be subject to conversion soon.

"I'm sure their days are numbered," he said.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.