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NY developer prefers to spend his next billion ‘down here’

Mark Parker



New York City-based billionaire John Catsimatidis kicked off a weekend of events at a St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership luncheon Friday at The Birchwood. Photo by Mark Parker.

New York-based business mogul John Catsimatidis Sr.’s praise for St. Petersburg is elevating alongside his momentous project downtown, the Residences at 400 Central.

Catsimatidis, founder of the $7 billion Red Apple Group, continues ingraining himself in the local community. A private luncheon Friday hosted by the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership kicked off a weekend of events in the city for the Catsimatidis family.

While Red Apple’s empire spans the grocery, real estate, media, finance and energy industries, Catsimatidis’ passion remains focused on creating “wow” buildings, like 400 Central. He said what will soon become the tallest residential tower on Florida’s Gulf Coast is nearly halfway to topping out.

“We’re up to the 20th floor, and we’re doing one floor every seven days,” Catsimatidis said of the 46-story building. “Hopefully, by the middle of 2025, people may start to move in. I love it; it’s a beautiful building.”

A recent aerial photo of construction progressing at 400 Central in downtown St. Petersburg. Photo provided.

Robert Zorn, executive vice president of Red Apple, kicked off the luncheon by noting that Catsimatidis and his wife, Margo, have extensive familial ties to St. Pete. Zorn said for Catsimatidis, creating a source of personal and community pride is on par with 400 Central’s return on investment.

The over $400 million project is Red Apple’s first outside New York. Zorn and his boss repeatedly stressed it would not be the last in the area.

“St. Petersburg is a very special place,” Zorn said. “We want to keep it that way and … let our efforts leave St. Petersburg a better place than when we started.”

Catsimatidis told attendees that he tirelessly promotes the city. Owning New York’s famed WABC Radio, which he said broadcasts to 173 countries and 50 states, aids those efforts.

Catsimatidis lamented the Big Apple’s building restrictions, crime, mental health policies and educational system. Mayor Ken Welch and a handful of city, county and academic officials joined local business leaders at the event, and Catsimatidis credited their collaborative spirit.

He also said St. Petersburg is now a national attraction. “I’d rather spend the next billion down here than up north,” Catsimatidis added.

The luncheon also allowed local officials to pitch the area to the self-described “common sense billionaire.” Cynthia Johnson, director of Pinellas County Economic Development, noted Catsimatidis’ affinity for beaches, baseball and business.

She proudly said all three feature prominently in the county and offered to help facilitate future company expansions. Welch thanked Catsimatidis for his investment in St. Pete and said, “We’ll take as many as we can get.”

“The vibrancy that we see downtown is something that we always wanted,” Welch added. “And we want to make sure that’s balanced with quality of life throughout the city. So, we’re trying to manage that growth and we’re excited to be a partner.”

Mayor Ken Welch (right) shakes hands with John Catsimatidis. Photo by Mark Parker.

Catsimatidis brought several people closest to him along for the trip. Those included his son, John Jr., who was recently named Red Apple’s president.

However, amidst the family and company executives was a lady named Charlotte. She donated a kidney to Catsimatidis. “I wouldn’t be living today without Charlotte,” he said.

The bombastic businessman has a soft side. As a Greek immigrant who grew up poor in Harlem, Catsimatidis said his philanthropic focus is uplifting children.

He and Margo recently partnered with the St. Petersburg Police Athletic League to help provide Christmas gifts for 70 at-risk kids from 40 families. After the luncheon, the couple and 400 Central’s award-winning architect joined a panel of officers to judge drawings from the organization’s children.

The three selected sketches of the project to feature prominently at the 400 Central Sales Gallery in downtown St. Petersburg. The Catsimatidis family has long supported the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church and will attend Saturday night’s 28th Annual St. Petersburg Winter Ball, commemorating the Russian Orthodox New Year, at the Tradewinds Island Resort.

After Friday’s event, Jason Mathis, CEO of the Downtown Partnership, explained Red Apple’s importance to St. Petersburg’s economy and skyline. “Built without any public subsidy, 400 Central will generate tens of millions of new tax dollars that can fund other community needs, like infrastructure, resilience and affordable housing throughout the city,” he said.

“Of all the places John could choose to invest in Florida, he chose St. Pete because he gets it,” Mathis added. “He cares about our community. The contributions he is already making to St. Pete nonprofits show that he’s willing to put his money to work to enhance the things we all love about this special place, even as we continue to evolve.”

The Red Apple Group expects the Residences at 400 Central to open in mid-2025. Photo provided.




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  1. Avatar


    January 23, 2024at6:19 pm

    Thank you Laura and you hit it on the head. St. Pete is gone to the developers, the great small town feel is paved over and upward. I tried to go to dinner one night and there is no parking? Cars just going around and around. A shame but the city has been sold to the highest bidder-

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    John Donovan

    January 22, 2024at5:02 pm

    Doesn’t speak well of NY and NY politics and economics. Self-inflicted wounds by them. We’ll take the billion any time.

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    Debi Mazor

    January 22, 2024at10:58 am

    Excuse me, Sir. Did you say it’s up to only 20 stories? I’ve watched it from afar as it blocked out the buildings (lower) behind it. This morning at 10:30 AM it blocked out the Sun from 8 blks NW. At full height did the plans show how far a shadow it will cast across Uptown and Mirror Lake? St Pete in darkness destroys our promise of Suncoast sunshine.

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    Karl Nurse

    January 21, 2024at5:37 am

    This building is in the downtown CRA which means the property tax revenue that it generates can only be spent downtown. This sharply limits the positive ripple impact. The city council could reduce the boundaries of the CRA to allow those revenues to flow into the pot with the rest of the city’s property taxes.

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    Mike Connelly

    January 21, 2024at1:00 am

    “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” — BIG YELLOW TAXI

    sing it Joni 🌻

  6. Avatar

    Kwame Donaldson

    January 20, 2024at11:14 pm

    This building will not “become the tallest tower on Florida’s Gulf Coast.” It will top out at 515 feet; downtown Tampa has four taller buildings. You mean to say “the tallest *residential* tower on Florida’s Gulf Coast.”

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    January 20, 2024at9:12 pm

    St. Pete is doomed.

  8. Avatar


    January 20, 2024at8:35 pm


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    January 20, 2024at7:28 pm

    Preach Laura, can I get an Amen.

  10. Avatar

    Bill plummer

    January 20, 2024at7:16 pm

    Laura, would you rather have a few bus loads of illegal immigration folks, I think your comment is ungrateful and not nice

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    January 20, 2024at7:10 pm

    Love seeing st.petersburg florida,you and your constituents build all you want! We’re put on this planet to progress humankind and strive for perfection.thanks for all your doing here.future looking real good here!

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    January 20, 2024at7:06 pm

    Mr Catsimatidis is the real deal. He has nothing but a good heart and wants everyone to do well in this country. His work with all parties in New York helps every level resident. He is an welcome addition to St Petersburg. Fyi his wife is the most caring person you will ever meet.

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    January 20, 2024at5:34 pm

    We agree that St Petersburg is a special place. It always has been. We also want it to stay that way. So please don’t try to turn it into NYC south. We don’t need anymore record setting buildings that none of us can afford to live in and we don’t need anymore of your billionaire elites coming here and making everything so expensive that we who have lived here for decades have to leave.

  14. Avatar

    John Donovan

    January 20, 2024at4:23 pm

    Winner !

  15. Avatar

    Elisabeth Newman

    January 20, 2024at3:16 pm

    It’s the beginning of the end of St. Pete as we know it. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

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