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Council approves final revision of Orange Station project

Veronica Brezina



A rendering of the Autograph Collection Hotels property that will be part of the Orange Station mixed-use development. All images provided.

The team behind the Orange Station development in downtown St. Petersburg is deviating further from the mixed-use project’s original plans by eliminating market-rate housing units and adding a new hotel. 

Thursday morning, the majority of the St. Petersburg City Council approved the third amended reiteration to the agreement with Edge Central Development Partners, a local partnership group consisting of DDA Development, Backstreets Capital and J Square, to change the project plans for the site of the old St. Pete Police headquarters at 1301 Central Ave.

Councilmember Richie Floyd had the sole no vote. 

The initial plan, approved in 2020, called for the team to develop at least 100,000 square feet of Class A office space, 56 residential condominium units, 30 workforce apartment units, retail and a parking garage. 

In the latest amended agreement, the partners have scrapped the plans to build 61 condos, known as The Residences at Orange Station. The development will still include The Wye, a 42-unit workforce housing apartment building, 125,000 square feet of office space, a shared parking garage, 14,000 square feet of retail, and a Marriott Autograph Collection-flagged hotel. 

A rendering of the Autograph Collection Hotels property. 

“We’ve made quite a bit of progress by completing the plans for the original package of uses and are in the position to move forward with the garage and workforce housing. We are changing what was originally a mixed-use building, including condominiums, and converting that building to 100% office,” said J Square CEO Jay Miller. 

Tampa-based Ellison Development will lead the development work on the 160-key boutique hotel, which will have a bar and restaurant, meeting and conference rooms, event spaces, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a multi-level theater and a rooftop pool.

Ellison Development will also be a joint venture partner. 

“They [Ellison Development] have the financial resources to enable us to start construction immediately without a loan, if necessary, on the portions of the project that are permitted,” Miller said. “We were obligated to seek a new investor partner when the financial markets changed, and traditional mortgage lenders started requiring more equity in order to provide any financing at all.” 

Construction is expected to start this fourth quarter. 

The partners must complete 25% of the project before they can close on the property. The entire 400-space parking garage and structural components of the workforce housing building must be built. 

Backstreets Capital co-founder Will Conroy said he expects residents to move into the workforce housing units by 2025.

Landing a major subsidy 

Edge Central Development Partners would pay the city $6.2 million for the site.

The purchase price will be reduced by $1 million due to the demolition of the old police HQ and additional workforce housing units. 

However, according to reports this year from Tobia Realty Advisors and Entreken Associates, the estimated property value surpasses $28 million. 

“To me, it appears you are getting a large subsidy and can get decreases in land costs over the years and sell it,” Floyd said. “We are pushing $25 million in subsidies for this development – that is immense.” 

Floyd said the site could have hundreds of affordable/workforce housing units with this type of subsidy. He also questioned the developer about the future ownership of the site. 

“We are tied to this project. We are not able to, nor do we have any intent, to acquire this property and sell it to somebody,” Miller said. “The economic mix of our uses will determine the ultimate value of the project.” 

Following Floyd’s comments, Councilmember Gina Driscoll recalled the first meeting when the members debated about the project uses. 

“This third amendment is actually an improvement over the second one,” Driscoll said. 

During the public speaking portion of the meeting, Edge Business District Director Roger Curlin, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership Director Jason Mathis and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher all spoke in support of the project. 

The execs championing the revised Orange Station plans reiterated how St. Pete is strained on office space, as it has a 3.3% vacancy rate. 

“We have 40 active projects [companies] looking for more space,” Steinocher said. 

They also shared how the 400 parking garage spaces will help address the needed parking in the booming district and provide the dire need for more affordable housing that the community continues to plea for. 

Finalizing the affordable housing 

The terms state that the group cannot reduce the workforce housing units without the consent of the city.

The majority units will cater to those earning 120% of the area median income (AMI), or $73,080 per year. 

Eight of the units would be designated for residents earning 80% of the AMI, which is $48,650, according to the city. 

A rendering of Ya La’Ford’s Courageous Twelve sculpture, to be installed at Orange Station.

In addition to the increase of the workforce unit count, the partners are also bumping up their financial contribution from $100,000 to $250,000 for a public art piece created by Ya La’Ford. The artwork will honor The Courageous 12, the Black St. Petersburg police officers who sued the city in the 1960s to gain the same rights as their white counterparts.  

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1 Comment

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    Bruce Nissen

    August 5, 2023at8:10 am

    Councilmember Floyd is absolutely correct. The city should not be giving large subsidies to developers when virtually all of the benefits go to already-wealthy indviduals and corporations. That $20 million subsidy from the city could and should have gone to the construction of housing for average income and below-average income residents. THAT is where the need is. Public money should not be diverted to simply help those at the top of the economic pyramid. That’s a perversion of the purpose of government.

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