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    Waterfront condos get redesign

    More buyers want water views, the developer of the Clearwater high rise says of the changes.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Condos at the luxurious Osceola Bay Club -- a 174-foot-tall, twin-tower residence planned at the fringe of downtown Clearwater -- were originally to be for sale as early as last July, just after the city approved the project.

    But that hasn't happened yet, one of the project's developers explained Wednesday, because the project overlooking Clearwater Harbor is being redesigned to give every condo a waterfront view.

    Richard Trela said extensive marketing research shows that potential buyers of the condominiums would prefer not to have units with only views of downtown, where voters rejected grandiose redevelopment plans last year.

    Although Trela is still optimistic that downtown eventually will be redeveloped, he and his partner, Jerry Ellenburg, decided that the water views were crucial to marketing the new project.

    The redesign involves changing little on the exterior but much on the interior of the buildings, Trela said. It is expected to be completed sometime in the next month.

    "We're just trying to do as much as we can to get what people want -- which seems to be a water view," Trela said. "But you change a few things in there and you have to do quite a few things internally."

    Trela said that he does not have a firm number yet on the units that will actually be built at the complex on the 300 to 500 block of N Osceola Avenue on the bayfront. It could be as few as 135 and as many as 150.

    The project was originally estimated by its developers at $100-million, with units ranging from $200,000 to $1.5-million each. Trela said Wednesday that he doesn't have an exact estimate yet on what the actual figures will be after the redesign is completed.

    The developers' marketing analysis revealed that people want other amenities such as a swimming pool, spa, video entertainment center, billiards room and library, Trela said.

    After the redesign is completed, the developers will go back to the city to make sure that the plans are still acceptable, Trela said.

    If drastic changes are proposed to the appearance of the buildings, the condominium would have to go back before the Community Development Board for a new hearing, said city planner Lisa Fierce, who oversees development reviews.

    The design of the project was an issue last year when it was approved. City planners even hired another architect to advise the condo's developers on how to tone down their building's super-modern appearance and make it fit with the old-fashioned architecture downtown.

    The clock is ticking on the project, Fierce said, because the Osceola Bay Club must have a building permit by June 20 or seek an extension of its previous approvals from the Community Development Board.

    "They're coming down to the home stretch essentially," Fierce said.

    Trela said that sales could start this summer, and it would probably take up to 18 months after that to build the condominium.

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