A property in downtown St. Pete, previously linked to an owner behind a Ponzi Scheme, will now be redeveloped into a 24-story mixed-use residential tower.
Chicago-based real estate group Focus purchased the properties at 226 6th St. S. along with 511, 533, 543 and 551 3rd Ave. S. earlier this year from the Tampa-based investment firm EquiAlt, in a $20 million transaction. The site is a few blocks south of Ascent, a 36-story luxury apartment development.
“The site was in receivership because a former owner was involved in a Ponzi Scheme. This was one of the assets the court took, and we worked with the receiver to buy it more or less,” Focus founder and CEO Tim Anderson said. “We are excited to get an off-market site close to Central Avenue, the bay and ease to access to the expressway. This checked all the boxes.”
When the plans for the $72 million project were unveiled earlier this year, it called for 335 apartments, 11,560 square feet of commercial space and a 382-space parking garage.
The figures have slightly changed. The unnamed mixed-use development will now comprise of 367 luxury apartments, 6,000 square feet of commercial space and a 369-space parking garage.
Focus Senior Vice President of Development Vicky Lee said the property acquisition was a “pretty smooth process” and the group has previously closed on sites in receivership. The project was submitted for a foundation permit August, and it is now completely entitled.
Lee said the Tampa/St. Pete metro was the top site in matching their criteria for entry into a market, such as retail activity and demographics. The team considered Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina, which are peer cities the Tampa Bay region often competes with in securing new business relocations and expansions.
“When we dug into the demographics, it was so different than what I thought it would be. There are more millennials and younger people, professionals. There’s the depth of the job market with the medical district and where we are located, which was encouraging to us,” Anderson said.
“We’ve done a lot of developments like Evanston, Illinois, where Northwestern University is. It’s a small city near a bigger city. We like these dynamics – you have independent restaurants and more of a small-town feel in an urban space.”
The majority of the units will be studios and one-bedrooms to cater to younger professionals. Residents can also reserve separate suites to accommodate their guests.
“We have designed the amenities to fit with that demographic profile. If you have smaller unit, there are places where you can reserve a room for an event and can have dinner there. There’s [3,000 square feet of] co-working space. I think there are some offerings in our amenity package that are better than what’s in market today,” Anderson said.
Focus has moved past the design stage. The team is working with St. Petersburg-based Place Architecture and South Florida-based general contractor Kast Construction.
The tower will have a chic coastal design and more of a “hotel feel.”
“A lot of times when you got into an apartment building, there’s usually a glass-enclosed office. We’d rather have a genius bar out front that looks like a hotel concierge desk. It’s one of those things where the person connects with the customer in a more hospitality type of approach,” Anderson said.
Lee said Focus expects to break ground on 511,509-square-foot tower in the first quarter of 2024. The team wants to complete the project in early 2026.
There will be two levels of amenities.
One will be located on the rooftop of the garage on the seventh floor overlooking Tropicana Field. There will be an outdoor pool deck, fire pits and grills. Another amenity space dubbed the Sky Lounge inside the tower and will also include an outdoor seating area.
The executives said it’s a little too early to determine the tenants for the ground floor retail spaces; however, they will pursue non-chain operators for boutique retail and restaurants, including an end cap unit with an overhang and terrace for outdoor seating.