The high-rise condo and hotel building that the Red Apple Group wants to build in the 400 block of Central Avenue can be a center point for downtown St. Petersburg, contributing to both the local economy and the arts scene, said Bob Zorn, executive vice president of the New York-based development company.
With its project, Red Apple is looking to create a “destination block,” Zorn said during a panel discussion at the Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay 2019 Trends Conference Wednesday.
Red Apple founder John Catsimatidis unveiled plans for a $250 million to $300 million, 50-story project earlier this month. It’s the first project the company has taken on outside of New York City, in part going outside its base because New York taxes are high and the Catsimatidis has family roots in St. Petersburg. Both St. Pete and Tampa have good governance, viable downtowns and a changing demographic with younger residents, Zorn said.
“We feel St. Petersburg is not overbuilt from the condo side. It is not overbuilt from the hotel side. There’s a fair amount of rental units but we still think it’s not terribly overbuilt,” Zorn said.
Red Apple bought the 99,000-square-foot block of 400 Central Ave. in 2017 and has been holding it while finishing projects in New York. Once those projects wrapped up, Catsimatidis gave Zorn a mandate — build something he’s proud of, that’s architecturally interesting and that’s accretive to the community.
“St. Pete is on a roll and I don’t want to build a monstrosity that hurts what I love about the city, and by the way I need a [return on investment] and I want to make money,” Zorn recalled Catsimatidis telling him.
The developer hopes to bring in Marriott Autograph, a luxury brand that includes the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa and the Fenway Hotel in Dunedin. Plans call for 200-plus hotel rooms and 300 condos on top of the hotel. The building would be oriented so most people have Tampa Bay or Gulf views, and designed to complement St. Pete’s “vibrant and active” arts community, Zorn said.
“Walk out the front door and take a left turn and you’re in the arts community, take a right turn and you’re at the beachfront,” he said.
Tenant demands for amenities have been shifting, said Zorn and other developers on the panel.
For Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion project underway in downtown Tampa, “the overall place, the neighborhood, is our amenity,” said James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners.
Midtown Tampa, a $500 million mixed-use project in near Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry, will have an element of programming, such as outdoor classes and concerts, said Nicholas Haines, CEO of The Bromley Companies.
“We’re looking to amenitize our building but want to be careful about what’s there for show and what’s there to sell the units versus amenities that people use,” Zorn said. “If we focus on the amenities people want we will have a better project.”