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Barkett Realty finds opportunities in the COVID-19 economy

Margie Manning

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video. 

On this episode, John Barkett, broker and owner of Barkett Realty in St. Petersburg, joins Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst, to talk about  real estate challenges and opportunities in the COVID-19 panedemic.

With increases in both the number of cases and the percent of people who test positive for the virus, “We are in a danger zone,” Steinocher said. One out of 10 people who get COVID-19 will go to an intensive care unit, he said. The hospital system, while strained, still has beds available, but could run out of beds if conditions continue to deteriorate, he said.

Additionally, the pandemic has brought economic hardships.

Barkett Realty, a full-service boutique brokerage for both commercial and residential real estate and focused on redevelopment, has been working with its clients and tenants to provide financial relief, in some cases deferring rent with partial repayment plans through the end of the year, or in other cases, helping navigate the Payroll Protection Program, which ends today.

There also is opportunity in real estate right now, John Barkett said.

“On the residential side, there are a whole lot of people who have been renters for a long time that really feel for the first time that this is the time to buy,” Barkett said. While inventory is tight, mortgage rates are low.

“On the commercial side, I have a lot of law firms, CPAs that are looking to buy property that were priced out before,” Barkett said. “There are owner-occupied opportunities becoming available with a potential income stream for a landlord, and a lot of banks have SBA loans available for small businesses.”

Institutional investors also remain interested in St. Petersburg, he said.

One big unknown is real estate for office use. Some developers planning mixed-use projects have pulled back on the speculative office component. That’s a concern, Barkett said, because the city needs more office space to continue adding jobs.

“Land values are holding right now, so if costs come down to build and land costs remain the same and rental levels, which have finally gotten to a place of financial feasibility, hold true, I think we’ll start to see some office development here,” he said.

Barkett talked about one of his own projects, a two-acre parcel of land under I-375 between 4th Avenue North and 5th Avenue North just east of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. In February, the St. Petersburg City Council approved $450,000 to convert the vacant land into a park and surface parking lot. The project also will have public art on the columns and a flat dark wall under the overpass, Barkett said.

Barkett called the area the “gateway to downtown,” as well as a way to connect Historic Uptown with the downtown area.

“I couldn’t be happier with the project. It’s a way to connect bifurcated neighborhoods and use public art as a way to bridge the gap,” he said.

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