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Billionaire developer receives warm welcome

Mark Parker



John Catsimatidis Sr. (left), CEO of the Red Apple Group, gave a presentation and signed his new book Saturday night at the St. Petersburg Museum of History. Kelly McBride, senior vice president for the Poynter Institute, moderated the discussion. Photo by Mark Parker.

The St. Petersburg Museum of History hosted a welcoming party of sorts Saturday night for John Catsimatidis Sr., the man behind what will soon become the tallest building on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The New York City-based mogul, 74, is also the author of How Far Do You Want to Go? Lessons from a Common-Sense Billionaire. The book details his journey as a Greek immigrant growing up in Harlem to owning several Red Apple Supermarkets to overseeing a real estate, media and finance empire.

Much of Catsimatidis’ next chapter in life will include St. Pete. Construction on the Residences at 400 Central should be complete by next spring, and he eagerly anticipates monthly visits to his penthouse underneath its 45th-floor observation deck.

Catsimatidis is strengthening local ties in the meantime, and a large contingent of family and friends came along for his latest visit to the Sunshine City. Several attendees expressed their appreciation for the new community members.

“Consider us official residents,” Catsimatidis said to conclude his presentation.

A rendering of The Residences at 400 Central. Image: Red Apple Real Estate.

Before dozens of people lined up for a book signing, Catsimatidis spent about 45 minutes relaying his life stories, beliefs and political contributions. Kelly McBride, senior vice president for the Poynter Institute, moderated the discussion.

Here are some highlights from his presentation, slightly edited for clarity:

A permanent home in St. Pete

“I love St. Petersburg. I’ve been coming here for 40 years, and this city has come a long way. The amount of museums you have is phenomenal. I think it’s a great community. It’s a nice, simple American city. And I love it.”

Living at 400 Central

“We took the penthouse. When you work for 50 years, seven days a week, you say, ‘eh, I deserve a little.’ One of the biggest arguments I had with my own people was on the top floor, the roof, I wanted to build an entertainment center – a place to go up there at night and look at the stars.

“I’m not going to spend $400 million and not do that. I love the observation deck we’re putting up on top. I wanted to build a wow building.”

Supporting Poynter and media efforts

I believe in what you guys are doing. I told you when we started that I believe in what Walter Cronkite was – I believe in truth in journalism. And I believe the American people want the truth.

“When I bought WABC, my hero was Walter Cronkite because 92% of the American people believed in Walter Cronkite. We (the station) have common-sense Democrats and common-sense Republicans. Why? Because I think common sense has to prevail.”


“At 5 p.m. on Thursday, I had Kevin McCarthy on, the Speaker (of the House), and I congratulated him because President Joe Biden and himself sat down and did a deal (raising the debt ceiling). I said, ‘The extreme right is no good. The extreme left is no good. Everybody has to sit down and do what’s good for America, together.’”

The importance of building relationships

“I must have had a dozen mentors. Going into the real estate and grocery business, probably 70% of them were Jewish. I learned a lot from them, and I learned to take their advice. They liked me, and people want to do business with people they like.

“Do you know what example I use? When I worked with Bill Clinton, and he was at the edge of the cliff, people loved him. When (former New York Governors) Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo were at the edge of the cliff, everybody was there to push them off.”




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  1. Avatar

    Debra Roux

    June 6, 2023at9:30 pm

    St Pete NEEDS MORE PARKING. Traffic Needs to stay OFF Beach Drive, especially during snow bird season!

    St Pete also must pursue proper public transportation to Tampa ✈️… and on to Orlando and Miami!

  2. Avatar

    Maria Cacciabaudo

    June 6, 2023at6:26 pm

    Just a greedy Billionaire ruining our beautiful Sunshine City. This Monstrosity will cast a huge shadow in many ways. Gentrification is disgusting. Taking away the colorful community we citizens love so much. Where’s the beautiful clock that used to stand so majestic?!?!

  3. Avatar

    Debi Mazor

    June 5, 2023at9:43 pm

    When the dust settles (if it ever does) very few of the people who can afford to live in these luxury condos will actually become active members of our community. How many units in the existing high-rises are lived in as residences (other than as tax havens for their owners)? Go out to the Pier or Demens Park sometime at night, turn around and count the number of lighted windows you see.

  4. Avatar


    June 5, 2023at9:00 pm

    It won’t be a nice simple American city for long if he builds more buildings like that here. This is not NYC and we don’t want to be. If we wanted to live in NYC we would move there.

  5. Avatar

    Bill Yoshita

    June 5, 2023at4:38 pm

    Please …. Billionaire blowhard Ft Lauderdaling — St Pete

  6. Avatar

    Brian Longstreth

    June 5, 2023at9:58 am

    Interesting article and man, is there more that was cut off? seems like an odd paragrap/line to end the story…”When (former New York Governors) Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo were at the edge of the cliff, everybody was there to push them off.”

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