Why this investor is bringing micro units to St. Pete
Local developer Robert Ritzenthaler, president of real estate firm REM Capital, is seeing how the soaring rental rates for apartments downtown are pushing some residents out of the city – but, he says, the development of micro units can help solve the intensifying issue.
Densely populated metros have embraced the micro-units concept as the tighter square footage results in lower rental rates for tenants who want to live and work in the city.
“I hear people say, ‘I want to live in St. Pete, but it’s too expensive, there’s no availability,’ and you see building after building going up and rents going higher,” Ritzenthaler said about the inevitable growth. “The demand is there, but at the same time, a typical resident can’t afford it.”
He and his team are preparing to break ground next month on two micro-unit complexes dubbed Ellington Place, named after American music legend Duke Ellington. The development will be a two-building branded apartment complex that will deliver hundreds of micro units.
One of the buildings will be developed at 200 17th St. N. in the Edge District, which is a site developer Tony Zhukovskyi was previously eyeing for a residential project. It will feature 76 units.
The other subject property will be near Mirror Lake at 770 4th Ave. N., which is currently occupied by the neighborhood community center. The center, which will be demolished, is not a historically designated structure, Ritzenthaler said. The property will feature 146 units.
The apartment units will be built above screened parking garages.
REM Capital purchased the properties late last year for the dual-branded development. The team is planning to commence construction at both sites simultaneously.
“I never thought we would do something in downtown St. Pete,” Ritzenthaler said, explaining how he started his company in 2018 in Tampa and was initially concentrating on adding value to properties.
“My goal was to build out that side of the business until we were ready to take on development projects,” he said. “Like Austin, St. Pete is another market where if you don’t have tons of money, you aren’t going to do a deal in that market. I feel super fortunate that we were able to buy a couple of lots.”
REM Capital’s units will range from 450 to 750 square feet, with rents ranging from $1,800 to over $2,500.
The complexes will have a pool deck with cabanas, and a fitness center.
“I hesitate to use the word ‘affordable’ because it’s still a lot of money, but relative to other places, it’s still cheaper,” he said, comparing the units to the current downtown inventory.
Ritzenthaler, who lived in a micro-unit apartment in New York City for a brief time, said, unlike many micro units in major cities, these units will be more “livable” with space for a bed, desk and kitchen.
“We are trying to provide value but not squeeze you into a little hole. We want it to be more balanced,” Ritzenthaler said, stating he is utilizing his background in construction building to make the development cost-effective while using resilient materials. “This is going to be a good testing point to see how we can do this. St. Pete is the perfect market because of its dynamics.”
Ritzenthaler is seeking to collaborate with local artists to create exterior murals and bring other local artistic touches to the complex.
REM Capital has an in-house development team and is working with Sarasota-based general contractor Finish Line Builders on the project.
May 24, 2023at3:52 pm
$1800-$2500/ month for a 450-750 square foot apartment is affordable?
May 24, 2023at4:08 pm
This appears to be a big juicy rationalization for charging still unaffordable rents for smaller spaces. Shameful to present yourself as trying to accommodate workers.
Voice Of The Masses
May 24, 2023at5:24 pm
Agree with the other commenters. This is definitely an attempt to pass off greed as a kind move. $1,800/m is way more than “affordable” for any average worker who wants to live alone.
May 24, 2023at5:37 pm
A well designed 450-750 SF unit can exhibit value and thus affordability… It is a very successful trend. Great plan Robert.
May 24, 2023at8:05 pm
Great plan to increase housing in the downtown area. Excited to see this break ground.
May 24, 2023at9:54 pm
Affordable, yeah right!
Micro apartments for macro bucks.
May 25, 2023at6:09 pm
Definitely not affordable housing. This will be an empty city as most extremely high end condos are not occupied full time by their owners. I can afford my rent now by no longer eating out, attending concerts, theater, taking the occasional cruise. Definitely not supporting any local businesses as I once did. Just looking to relocate
May 25, 2023at8:02 pm
It saddens me that things are so badly mismanaged in our nation that young people are now forced to pay $1400 for for a micro unit of 450 sq. ft., the size of a living room! How will young people ever be able to afford a house? Eggs $5, potatoes $6, milk $4.5! Things need to change!
May 26, 2023at9:40 am
Unbelievable. How did this guy get past city council
With this con job? Greed in disguise. Even the name is a hustle. St. Pete need to rethink construction. Large fees should be added for an upgraded sewage system and harbor.