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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 26, 2019 4 months ago

Work of art: Building designed to make a statement, link business districts

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Amid a glut of mixed-use projects in a booming downtown, how will an Indianapolis developer’s foray — a $53 million project — stand out?
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

As downtown St. Petersburg continues its westward expansion via the rapidly growing EDGE District, it will abut a line of demarcation, of sorts, in the form of the massive Interstate 275 overpass that separates the area from the Grand Central District.

An Indianapolis development firm that's studied St. Pete’s downtown boom thinks it has come up with the perfect mixed-use project to create a business-friendly transition between the EDGE and Grand Central districts. The firm, Milhaus, believes the project will boost economic activity in the surrounding blocks via increased foot traffic to retail, dining and personal services.

Jourdan Woodruff heads Milhaus's Florida development team. Courtesy photo.

The project is Artistry, a $53 million, six-story, 251-unit apartment and commercial complex, planned for 1601 Central Ave. Founded in 2012, Milhaus has already made Tampa Bay and the Gulf Coast a primary market for its particular brand of urban multifamily developments. Artistry complements its vision. 

“We like the area because of its population growth,” says Jourdan Woodruff, who heads the firm’s Florida development team, “which you can’t really compare to anywhere else right now. We like the Tampa region, specifically, because it has the potential to grow into a nationally recognized market but the scale and accessibility is still there. It’s not on the same level as Miami, but in a good way.”

Yet in a downtown market saturated with new condo and apartment towers that have retail and restaurant components, how will Milhaus, which paid $1.6 million for the land for Artistry, stand out from the pack and attract St. Pete renters awash in options?

For starters, says Woodruff, Milhaus takes great care to create projects built to fit a neighborhood’s specific look and feel. In the case of the artsy, mural-filled EDGE District, the developer knew it needed to bring something special.

“We’ll have art throughout the building and make sure it’s local art,” she says. “We will also have an integrated art gallery that’s open to the public, and a ‘maker space’ — a workshop for residents. We really pride ourselves on integrating into the fabric of an area.”

"Central Avenue is unique in its continuity and how far it extends, and how local it is. That’s hard to find anywhere in the country." Jourdan Woodruff, Milhaus’s lead developer for Florida

Woodruff, 28, says Milhaus has developed a specific strategy for identifying markets where it builds. It targets Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, Louisville, Memphis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Kansas City and its home turf of Indianapolis — metro areas that boast ingredients attractive to millennials, such as a strong education system and tech sector, as well as a relatively modest cost of living.

“We’re looking at urban cities that are coming back and having a resurgence of population growth, where people aren’t moving out to the ‘burbs,” she says. “We’re looking at millennial growth and the capture rate of universities, how they influence buy-in to a market.”

Artistry will offer about 11,000 square feet of commercial space, priced from $28 to $35 per square foot, divided into five units. The high-profile end-cap space would be suitable for a restaurant, bar or other entertainment space, say officials with the property's broker, KW Commercial. Woodruff says Milhaus envisions a mix of retail and neighborhood services for the remainder of the commercial space.

“Specialty, class-based fitness is something we’ve spoken about with a few people, and we feel it’s something that’s lacking a little bit in St. Pete and would be a great asset to the neighborhood and our residents,” she says. “But the retail is something we are not picky about — we just want to integrate with the neighborhood. We are not going after national brands — that’s not what we are about.”

Atlanta-based Dwell Design Studio provided architectural services for Artistry, while the builder is Sarasota-based Core Construction. When it opens in late spring 2020, Artistry, the company hopes, will fill what Woodruff refers to as “a missing tooth” in the area, starting around 13th Street. “For about four blocks there, near the interstate, there’s this gap,” she says. “We’re hoping to activate this piece of Central Avenue and further connect downtown to the EDGE District.”

In addition to studying the Tampa Bay region on a macro level, Woodruff says the company, again seeking an edge in a competitive environment, delved deep into the economics and makeup of St. Pete’s eclectic Central Avenue business corridor. “Central Avenue is unique in its continuity and how far it extends, and how local it is,” she says. “That’s hard to find anywhere in the country. We value that and feel like it’s something we want to help protect.”

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