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Soft market? Don't tell developments' planners

By PAUL SWIDER
Published May 2, 2007


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Though the housing market is still stalled, planning for new commercial and mixed-use developments continues with a new proposal being floated just north of downtown.

"The lull is exclusive to residential, " said David Dunbar, CEO of Synovus Bank of Tampa Bay, which is about to sell its property at Fourth Street and Third Avenue N to Miles Development for a new complex. "Commercial development hasn't slowed at all."

The deal hasn't yet closed and Miles is still performing its due diligence, but the Atlanta firm with a taste for St. Petersburg already has some ideas for the block. Jason Perry, the company's vice president of development, said he anticipates three phases of building: 1 a 12-15-story office building, 130-room hotel and a parking garage to connect them on the north of the property; 2) an upscale urban grocery store on the southeast corner; and 3) a rehab or reconstruction of the existing bank building on the southwest corner as either more office space or possibly condominiums.

"It's very much in pencil right now, " Perry said. "But we really love that site, been watching it for some time now."

Perry said the first phase could be completed within two to three years, but the rest is further out. Still, the planning mirrors that of other recent announcements that show developers are sharpening their pencils for what they see as an attractive downtown market.

Last week Jimmy Aviram and Tibor Hollo discussed plans to build nearly 1-million square feet of hotel, condo and shopping in two towers on the Tropicana block at Second Street and Central Avenue.

Mansion by the Bay on Fourth Avenue N may soon be replaced by a 21-story condo project that goes to the Environmental Development Commission today.

And Fuel Group International will appear before the EDC on May 16 seeking approval for a 32-story hotel and condo building on Fifth Avenue and First Street NE.

"St. Pete will attract the comeback faster than anywhere else, " Dunbar said. "No other city has its assets and any developer can see that."

Dunbar said he didn't need to sell the property but it was underutilized and he wanted Synovus to be part of a showcase project on the site. The first-phase office building will likely be named Synovus Bank Tower and continue to house the bank's wealth management and commercial operations. Synovus is also building a corporate headquarters for senior management and a new branch on Roosevelt Boulevard and 28th Street.

The new Miles development will be an early foray into north downtown, an area with more plans than action the last few years.

"There hasn't been a whole lot of development near that site, " Perry said. "But that's the Miles MO, to be somewhat pioneering."

Miles recently opened its 114-unit 1010 Central project, a condo building well west of hotter development areas. It is nearing completion of The Sage, a 112-unit project southwest of downtown. In August, the company will break ground on a 159-unit apartment building at 1701 Central next to Interstate 275.

Perry said the company remains very interested in the city and is interested in larger projects like the estimated $170-million Synovus concept.

He has land to choose from. The 3.7 acres near Harborage Marina that was to be Windward is for sale, as is the 1.6 acres that were to be CitySide at Third Avenue N and Eighth Street. Land slated for LaVista is also for sale at Third Avenue N and Fifth Street, and a 2-acre parcel set to be the Edge is for sale at Fourth Avenue S and Fourth Street. "We're still looking for opportunities, " Perry said. "We're very bullish on St. Pete."

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

[Last modified May 1, 2007, 20:37:34]


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