Around the Bay: Business news from the Tampa Bay region
By Times Staff
Published April 16, 2007
Homeowners urged to be careful about dropping sinkhole policies
In January, state Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. John Legg ballyhooed the option of dropping sinkhole insurance as a way to "protect our consumers" and drop premiums as much as 60 percent. There's something else consumers should know: "Sinkholes are an unpredictable part of the Florida landscape, especially in west-central Florida and the greater Tampa Bay area," according to a flier for home buyers from the state Department of Financial Services. The flier gives another nugget of advice: "Make sure that sinkhole coverage is included in your policy, or in a rider." Citizens Property Insurance Corp. intends to make the option available by Sept. 1, if regulators approve the state-run insurer's final filings. Private insurers will make it optional, too. By law, customers across Florida will get 100 days' notice of the change, then may begin deciding whether to drop the coverage. In Pasco and Hernando counties, and to a lesser extent in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, they may drop it and pay lower premiums. Insurers blame a rash of sinkhole claims in Pasco and Hernando counties for driving up rates there. However, dropping the coverage shifts the burden of paying for repairs to policyholders. Florida sinkhole ombudsman David Fisher, who works in the financial services department, said consumers should think hard before dropping coverage. Like the flier, he recommended that consumers get advice from an insurance agent and figure out how to pay for sinkhole damage if they drop sinkhole coverage. "It's really difficult to make a recommendation. But personally, myself, if I lived in a sinkhole-prone area, I'd want it," Fisher said.
New condo projects are on the landscape
Despite the sluggish real estate market, two 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 is expected to open around the end of May, Fields said, but about a third of the units are 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 more than a week, Fields said he's sold two units. He said he's gotten most of the calls from Illinois, where he was president of residential brokerage at Sudler Real Estate in Chicago. "The condo hotel appeals to a different demographic," said Fields, who moved his business to St. Petersburg about a year ago.
Get the taste of Amish while on the beach
Unlike typical beach shops' offerings of bikinis and beach balls, a new downtown business features all things Amish. The Amish Creamery Co. at 200 150th Ave. is stocked with elderberry jam, biscuit mix and rolled butter, along with home-style ice cream from the Big Olaf Creamery in Sarasota. The owners say everything in the store is Amish, with the exception of some soft drinks and crackers. The ice cream shop and deli opened last month and has seen heavy traffic. Renovations took longer than expected, but the big Amish face on the sign had passers-by intrigued. "People are coming in and saying, 'We're glad to see you open,' " said Clint Herlein, one of the owners. "They say now they don't have to go to Sarasota" and its Pinecraft community of Amish. Herlein and partner Rich Brooks set out to open in November, but meeting legal codes and rehabbing a 55-year-old building proved difficult. The previous tenant was a bikini shop, but the building was originally a gas station, so it required $80,000 to convert it into a food business. Both men have worked in corporate America but wanted to return to simple ideals. Brooks was a bond trader, and Herlein worked in sales and marketing with IBM and Textron. They wanted to control their destinies and be in touch with quality products. "After dealing with Wall Street traders, coming in here and doing this is fun," Brooks said.
[Last modified April 13, 2007, 19:50:23]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]