John Catsimatidis Sr. considers himself a “common-sense billionaire,” as noted in the title of his recently released book; he also believes people have undervalued St. Petersburg’s luxury condominium market.
The outspoken New York City-based developer is behind the Residences at 400 Central. The condominium and office tower will soar 46 stories above the thoroughfare, becoming the tallest building on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Catsimatidis’ development firm, Red Apple Group, already has a penthouse under contract for $5 million. He also claimed one for himself and told the Catalyst that he would soon raise rates on the remaining residences.
“Whoever reads your article in the next 30 days – they’re going to get away cheap,” Catsimatidis said. “It’s (rates) going to go up at least 10%, maybe more.
“They’re selling too fast; we’re almost 50% sold.”
Catsimatidis relayed that he has recently yelled at his team because the units are “too cheap” compared to luxury condos in other cities. His focus is on premium units and not the cost or availability of workforce and affordable housing.
He noted that in Naples, just over a two-hour drive south down the coast, similar developments charge around $3,000 per square foot. Someone can purchase a home in 400 Central for between $1,000 and $1,200 per square foot.
“So, you’re buying it for nothing,” Catsimatidis said. “And you’re getting as much luxury as you do in Naples.”
The $400 million development will encompass an entire city block in St. Petersburg’s waterfront downtown. In addition to 301 luxury condos, it will feature retail, restaurants and a rooftop terrace.
Catsimatidis relayed that he enjoys the city more than Naples, long a southern haven for the nation’s wealthy. He said St. Petersburg offers “great” restaurants, “beautiful” beaches and more museums and culture.
“And no hurricanes!” he exclaimed. “Only two hurricanes in the last 100 years. God has blessed St. Pete and the Tampa Bay area.”
Like many local stakeholders, Catsimatidis also grasps the demand for Class A office space in St. Petersburg. The development will feature at least 40,000 square feet, and he instructed his architects to design another floor that would double it to 80,000 square feet.
That would be the second time Catsimatidis has increased office space at 400 Central, and he said, “We’re going to try and provide as much as we can.” Company officials have inquired about leases, but Catsimatidis declined to say who – for now.
“Maybe I’ll tell you in the first week of June when I come,” he added.
While soaring construction costs and interest rates have delayed projects, Catsimatidis said there are no such worries with 400 Central. Red Apple secured $252 million in financing from Bank OZK in January, and he is “pushing on people” to complete construction by next spring.
He believes the tallest condo and office tower on the Gulf Coast will boost the city’s national credibility, and the development will set a city record this Friday night (May 12): Crews will pour two million pounds of concrete over five and a half million pounds of steel – the most by a private owner – and second only to the St. Pete Pier.
Catsimatidis, 74, was born on the Greek island of Nisyros and immigrated to New York with his family six months later. His memoir, How Far Do You Want to Go? Lessons from a Common-Sense Billionaire details his journey from a grocery store clerk to owning 10 Red Apple Supermarkets by age 25.
The Red Apple Group now boasts over 8,000 employees spanning real estate, energy, sports, finance and media enterprises. The book, published in February by Matt Holt, is now on the Wall Street Journal’s best-seller list.
“People love it because there’s a lot of common sense in it,” Catsimatidis said. “And you know who’s buying it the most? Parents and grandfathers and grandmothers because they want their kids to read it.”
He said St. Pete has also come a long way and expressed pride in the city’s recent transformation. He and his wife have visited regularly since her parents moved to the area over 40 years ago.
Those trips will increase once 400 Central opens, and Catsimatidis said he would stay in his penthouse “at least once a month.” He continues exploring development opportunities in the city and said Kevin King, former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s chief of staff, is leading those efforts.
“As soon as he recommends one (a site) to me, I’ll write a check,” Catsimatidis said. “I’m not an accountant. I believe in building a ‘wow’ building. When people look at it, they say, ‘Wow, I want to live there.'”