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Two condo hotel projects on landscape

By PAUL SWIDER
Published April 11, 2007


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Despite the sluggish real estate market, two new condo hotel projects are coming to Treasure Island.

"A lot of projects were slated, but most of them are on hold," said Bill Fields of Condo Hotel Marketing Group, who is shopping two projects on Gulf Boulevard. "They're on hold because in 2005 they made sense, but in 2007, they don't. Ours makes sense."

Fields is about to launch Treasure Bay Hotel and Marina at 11125 Gulf Blvd., a former Best Western that has access to Boca Ciega Bay.

The 84-unit complex will open around the end of May, Fields said, but about a third of the 400-square-foot units are already sold, with prices around $255,000. Fields will also sell marina slips for about $100,000 on behalf of owner Premier Hotel Corp. and Treasure Bay Properties.

Recently, Fields put up a sign on the former Gulf Golf miniature golf property for a 36-unit condo hotel project called Crystal Palms Resort at Capri. In a little over a week, Fields said he's sold two units. He said he's gotten most calls from Illinois, where he was president of residential brokerage at Chicago-based Sudler Real Estate.

"The condo hotel appeals to a different demographic," said Fields, who moved his business to St. Petersburg about a year ago. "It provides people with hassle-free ownership. The whole object is to defray the cost of ownership."

Condo hotels are becoming popular along Pinellas' southern beaches but have been around for 30 years or more. It allows an investor to own a hotel room that is rented to tourists while the owner gets to use the room for a limited number of days per year. Some confuse condo hotels with time-shares, but they are different, managers say.

"It's a very common practice but it's often misunderstood," said Tim Bogott, president and CEO of the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, which has 288 of its 724 hotel rooms owned by individual investors. "They work best in the context of an overall resort complex."

With the spike in property values and lenders reluctant to fund tourism construction after 9/11, condo hotels became a popular way to finance new projects. Bogott and others say, though, that putting the condo first is a way to get the building done but not provide an investment for the buyer.

The TradeWinds condo hotel units look and operate like a hotel, where guests book with the resort, check in at the front desk, and receive typical hotel services.

Run this way, Bogott says his investors have rentals cover all the costs of ownership - mortgage, taxes and insurance - meaning they get an appreciating investment and a free hotel room for vacations. Projects that don't provide services don't work as well.

"It's got to make sense as a hotel first," said Jeff Beggins, a real estate broker who is getting ready to tear down the beachfront Algiers motel in Treasure Island and build a 20-unit luxury condo hotel. "It's got to be unique. It's got to have a draw."

Beggins' project adds another layer by allowing fractional ownership of each unit. The complex will feature 2,000-square-foot, two-bedroom units with amenities like personal hot tubs on private decks, waterfalls, and remote computer controls, along with detailed concierge services for all guests.

The units will cost about $2-million each, but Beggins said they will remain affordable because the business model allows as many as eight owners per unit.

Beggins doesn't have a start date on the Algiers project, but Fields said Crystal Palms owner Bill Edwards is going ahead with the $10-million project this fall, with hopes of completion a year later.

There will be one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 800 to 2,000 square feet and in price from $400,000 to $950,000. Fields said there is a possibility of another 18-unit condo hotel behind the Crystal Palms.

Beggins said his and other projects are trying to address the county's loss of about 5,000 hotel rooms to residential condos in the past five years.

"Old-style hotels' days are definitely numbered," he said. "They just don't make sense economically."

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

Fast Facts:

New to the area

Crystal Palms Resort at Capri

11605 Gulf Blvd.

Size: 36 units from 800 to 2,000 square feet

Price: $400,000-$950,000

Treasure Bay Hotel and Marina

11125 Gulf Blvd.

Size: 84 units of 400 square feet each

Price: $255,000

[Last modified April 10, 2007, 20:28:58]


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