Steve Gianfilippo is an entrepreneur among entrepreneurs. He is the mind behind numerous real estate, hospitality and tech ventures in Tampa Bay. His most well-known (and loved) venture, Station House, is a space that marries innovation, community and business together in a cultural epicenter like no other. Ever-bustling with community leaders, real estate executives and hungry start-up techies, Station House embodies everything St. Pete is and strives to remain: a place to work, live, and play simultaneously.
An Italian New Yorker to his core, Gianfilippo has a taste for the finer things, and a penchant for sharing his taste-making with his chosen home. Despite moving to Florida when he was two years old, Gianfilippo has never really lost the sense of connection to his birthplace, and it shows. Not only in his savvy, fast-paced business dealings, but in the projects he undertakes. Gianfilippo, and the company he founded, Gianco, have played a major part in the curation of St. Pete’s culture, and the rest of the world is starting to notice.
When Gianfilippo opened the flagship Station House building in late 2014, no one was quite sure what to make of it. The spaced opened in progressive phases. First, the restaurant (now replaced with ramen-haven Ichicoro Ane), then upper-floor private office space, and finally the entire main space, his first co-working endeavor, complete with Kahwa Coffee and Tebella Tea Co. Gianfilippo invested nearly $5.5 million in the purchase and renovation of the century-old historic downtown space, which previously housed a fire station, a hotel and a train station.
The finished product? A nod to his New York roots, visible in the designs of the space. “The columns that we have wrapped on the second floor, that idea came from Gramercy Park Hotel lobby,” Gianfilippo says. “The double chandelier that we have, Gramercy Park has one in their lobby. So, I pulled a lot of design cues and things that were memorable to me and my travels and being in New York, and pulled them down here.“
Despite the infusion of culture into St. Pete’s spaces, Gianfilippo doesn’t let the history of the venue die. In fact, it’s one of his biggest inspirations. “Every property that I’ve bought, the first thing that I do is I go to the History Museum and I pull all the cards on the property. And it’s super-inspirational to go do that. It’s very powerful to see what St. Pete used to be like.”
The melding of historic architectural elegance and posh New York design make Station House the perfect grounds for establishing the flavor of what, to Gianfilipo, St. Pete is all about. “There’s lots of art on our walls,” he explains. “You get a huge mix of demographics in the space, from artists and creatives all the way to real estate professionals, financial professionals and ex-bank presidents.”
More than just a co-working space, it is a veritable breeding ground for the innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration that make this city’s renaissance so palpable. By design, it is a place “where collisions happen, and people come to meet one another.”
Now, Gianfilippo is “spreading the seed” further afield. In the works are two new locations for Station House, one on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Pete, the other in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village. Each location will have a different flavor, based on the area and the context of its site. Just a few blocks from the original Station House location, the second St. Pete location – to be known as the Station House Arcade – will boast an atmosphere in tune with the artsy mix of businesses the block has become famous for. “The 600 block,” he says, “is more of a grassroots area, mom and pop shops, start-up businesses, small businesses that need a place to thrive because the downtown core is too expensive rent-wise.”
As for the foray into Tampa? The space will be new construction, completely different from the historic buildings Gianfilippo has renovated. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the aesthetic will match the “clean, white-washed brick” feel of Hyde Park Village, rather than the vintage, polished look of Station House’s flagship.
He has a few skeptics, but Gianfilippo believes the over-the-bay expansion will be good for St. Pete. “I think that it’s really shedding some light on St. Petersburg,” he says. “The developers that are behind Hyde Park Village, I don’t know if anyone knows WS Development…They have multi-billion-dollar investments, they know Station House. Their people are here in St. Pete.”