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Another downtown high-rise planned

Property owners on Beach Drive NE plan to start on something after the Vinoy Place condos are completed.

Revised December 11, 2000

By SHARON L. BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Another high-rise condominium is in the preliminary planning stages for downtown. It would stand just behind the Beach Park Motel at 300 Beach Dr. NE on land owned by Ian Irwin of the Southeast Cos. and Dan Harvey of Harvey's 4th Street Grill.

"We own the property and are planning to develop there. It's way too premature to talk about it," Irwin said this week. He wanted to make clear that he was not announcing the project but merely answering questions about it.

The plan is to start on something after the luxury condominiums at Vinoy Place are completed toward the end of next year, Irwin said. Southeast Cos. is developing Vinoy Place with Craig McLaughlin. Irwin said ownership of the land behind the Beach Park is in a partnership between Irwin Investments and Harvey; Southeast is not involved.

He would not say how many units or how many stories the condominium building might have.

"We are studying all of that," Irwin said. "We would like to start something in 2002."

The project as now envisioned would not include the Beach Park Motel, which recently changed hands. The new owner is developer Jimmy Averim, who also owns the Harborage Marina on Second Street S and Maximo Marina on 37th Street S and developable land around the Harborage.

Jimmy Averim is out of town until Friday. But his son Tal said it was undecided what will be done with the 26-room motel.

"We are talking about a number of different things," Tal Averim said. "We could retrofit it. We could tear it down and build a new motel."

Meanwhile, the first two phases of Vinoy Place, consisting of two condominium towers and 10 cityhomes, are nearly finished. Only three or four of the 52 units areleft to sell. Prices averaged around $600,000 to $700,000 with the top price at more than $2-million.

Vinoy Place is at 555 Fifth Ave. NE. Irwin said construction should start on Phase 3, consisting of two more condominium towers, after the first of the year. It would take most of 2001 to complete this last phase.

Vinoy Place is the last of three luxury condominium buildings to be built downtown in the past few years. The Cloisters at 288 Beach Drive NE, with 32 units priced from $340,000 to $1.25-million, opened first. It has 11 units left. The Florencia, 100 Beach Drive NE, opened in June and has sold most of its 50 units, which ranged in price from $434,000 to $2-million.

Other, much smaller condominium or townhouse projects also are under way. They include North Shore Landing on North Shore Drive with seven custom units, ranging in price from $199,000 to $324,000; and Straub Place, townhomes in the $200,000 range, on Fourth Avenue N between Third and Fourth streets.

Irwin said the latest condominium project, which does not have a name, could include retail and office as well as residences. There could even be a business hotel on the property, he said.

Rick Mussett, city economic development administrator, said he had heard briefly about Irwin's development plan and knew the Beach Park had a new owner.

"I encouraged Jimmy and Ian to work with each other," Mussett said. It makes more sense to Mussett "if both things could be integrated into a single project."

With the advent of condominium towers near the waterfront, the city of St. Petersburg put new building codes in place to prevent enormous, tall buildings such as the Bayfront Tower at 1 Beach Drive SE from being built again. Such buildings have the effect of creating a wall between the rest of downtown and the waterfront.

The city now requires buildings of any height in the waterfront area to be terraced or stair-stepped back as they rise. The first break comes after four stories, according to Kevin Dunn, managing director of development coordination for the city. Ground floors are required to have some sort of retail presence.

Irwin is aware of the new rules and is designing with them in mind.

"If you stair-step back, you can build a pretty tall building back there," Irwin said of the site behind the Beach Park. The site is 90,000 square feet, Irwin said. It now is occupied by a parking lot.

He said the condominiums would not be as large or as expensive as those in the Vinoy but still will be luxury homes. "We feel like this is an opportunity to appeal to a broader section of the market."

Prices are likely to be in the $300,000 plus range, Irwin said. Sizes could start at 1,300 square feet.

He does not think the condominium market ever will reach the saturation point in St. Petersburg because there is not enough land to overbuild. Two-thirds of the buyers of Vinoy Place homes were either from out of town or out of state, Irwin said.

"That market is unlimited."

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