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Boston developer plans mixed-use project one block from St. Pete City Hall

Margie Manning

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The Christ United Methodist Church parking lot at 1st Avenue North and 5th Street

The DeNunzio Group LLC has proposed a new high-rise with retail, office, hotel and residential space on what’s now a parking lot at 1st Avenue North and 5th Street, one block south of St. Petersburg City Hall.

The building would include about 300 parking spaces set aside for public use, that would be funded in part by about $8.6 million from the city.

The project is still in its preliminary planning phases, said Dustin DeNunzio, president of Boston-based DeNunzio Group, a real estate development and consulting firm. The St. Petersburg City Council will be asked to approve a term sheet allowing negotiations on the deal to go forward at its March 7 meeting.

“One of the things we’re working on with the city is public parking, which will drive a lot of what the building will look like,” DeNunzio told the St. Pete Catalyst. “It will have more parking than it would without this city-funded piece.”

The new building would have ground floor retail space, at least seven levels of parking above the ground floor, two levels of office space above the parking, two or three levels of hotel space above the office space and multiple levels of residential and/or multi-family space above the hotel space, according to the term sheet.

There would be at least four levels of parking set aside for public use, with up to 75 spaces per level, although the final number will be determined by the approved building plan. If a development agreement goes forward, the city would spend $28,700 per parking space from the Intown Tax increment Revenue and Parking Revenue fund. In turn, the city would be paid 15 percent of the annual net profit generated from the city-funded parking spaces.

The proposed project is about one block from a former public parking lot and garage that was fully occupied and no longer exists, a memo to the city council said.

“We support the project because it allows us to add some badly needed public parking in a critical area of downtown,” said Alan DeLisle, city development administrator. “The Parking Plan identified this area as a need. The Parking Plan also recommended public-private partnerships to achieve more supply. And it creates about 40,000 square feet of new office space in downtown, which is badly needed.  As you know with L3 and Dynasty recently announcing their entrance into downtown St Pete, office space and parking continue to be more in demand.”

Dynasty Financial Partners last week said it would move its headquarters from Manhattan to downtown St. Pete, taking a full floor in the 200 Central building. L3 Technologies is moving the corporate headquarters for its commercial aviation solutions unit and 250 jobs, into the Tampa Bay Times building at 490 1st Ave. S.

Over the last 20 years, there’s been little new office construction downtown, except for single-tenant corporate offices. The most recent office project was the Duke Energy building on 1st Avenue North that opened in 2007. United Insurance Holdings Corp. plans to build a new headquarters at 800 1st Ave. S..

The vacancy rate for downtown Class A office space fell to 8.6 percent in 2018, the lowest it’s been in about two decades.

“It is important to our economy to be able to accept new office tenants who want to locate downtown now and going into the future,” the memo to the city council said.

DeNunzio doesn’t have specific office or retail tenants lined up yet. But he has strong ties in the Boston and Cambridge areas to telecommunications and biotech firms.

“I want to talk to the companies we have contacts with and see if they would consider a satellite office in Florida,” he said, citing factors such as a lower cost of living in St. Petersburg and proximity to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

The new building would be on a .65 acre parking lot currently owned by Christ United Methodist Church. The church would be able to use up to 120 parking spaces on Sundays and other days specified in a development agreement free of charge.

DeNunzio is under contract to buy the land. He said he has been working closely with the church since an earlier contract with a different developer fell through.

“This is the first step in a long process in working and planning with the city,” DeNunzio said. “We are not developers who come in and build something and leave. We tend to build and hold.”

DeNunzio grew up in Palm Harbor so he’s very familiar with St. Petersburg.

“The mix of the arts, sports like the Grand Prix and the Rowdies, restaurants, nightlife, the public activity, and it’s on the water — I think it’s a great work life balance,” he said. “I also like the positioning of the city and what the city government has done over 10 years to entice people to live there.”

The proposed downtown building would be DeNunzio’s first project in St. Petersburg. The company developed the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Clearwater Beach two years ago, and is planning a hotel and residential project in Madeira Beach.

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