Following a COVID-19-inspired delay, the former St. Petersburg police headquarters is now poised for an $80 million, mixed-use redevelopment.
After being selected from a shortlist of five last November to redevelop the former St. Petersburg police headquarters site, Edge Central Development Partners had planned to begin demolition this summer.
In place of the old police station and offices, Edge Central intends to construct an $80 million mix of offices, condominiums, a parking garage, “workforce” apartments and ground-floor retail space.
For the city’s Edge District and beyond, the project has been highly anticipated: The new offices will be the city’s first in about 30 years; the new condos the first in the district in more than a decade.
Mayor Rick Kriseman last fall described the redevelopment of the roughly two-acre tract at 1300 First Ave. North as “the most exciting and dynamic” project in recent history because it met several city needs, most notably for more affordable rental units.
Then COVID-19 hit, disrupting plans far and wide.
“We had to adjust our schedule somewhat, as has every other project in downtown St. Petersburg,” says Jay Miller, one of Edge Central’s principals and the head of J Square Developers, a St. Petersburg-based firm.
“We’ve pushed back six to nine months from our original schedule, and we may have to adjust again,” Miller adds. “We just can’t say at this point, but we’ve got our optimistic hats on.”
For its part, the police headquarters moved to a new 168,000-square-foot building at 1301 First Ave. North, across the street from the planned mixed-use project. That $78.5 million development was completed in March 2019.
As cases of coronavirus have proliferated in Florida, hundreds of commercial real estate projects have either had to reconsider their underwriting or hit the proverbial pause button.
Even well-planned and relatively straightforward developments, such as apartments, have had to push delivery timetables back, inject fresh equity or adjust pro formas for lease up.
In the case of mixed-use projects like 1300 First Ave., those scenarios have been magnified because of the complexity of the development.
But while the project has been inevitably delayed, progress has continued nonetheless. Later this month, St. Petersburg’s City Council is expected to vote on a formal agreement with Edge Central, a pact that would govern the public parking agreement and site development.
“We’re feeling pretty good about the project,” says Alan DeLisle, St. Petersburg’s development administrator. “Certainly everyone understands the level of disruption we’re all now facing in the age of COVID-19.
“We continue to feel very strongly about the potential for the office space there and I think by the time this project starts construction and is finished we’ll be back to a very good place. St. Petersburg’s fundamentals have not changed.”
Wendy Giffin, a director at commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield in Tampa who is leasing Edge Central’s 100,000 square feet of office space, says the development will appeal to technology companies eager to locate within the Edge District, which is known for its plethora of hip restaurants and breweries.
“The office vacancy rate in downtown St. Petersburg stands at 6%, and we believe a lot of young tech companies will want this office space because their employees either live or want to live in the neighborhood,” Giffin says.
“The project also is unique in that the office building will be stand-alone, with its own amenities and its own elevators,” Giffin says. “It will be part of the whole at 1300 First but also distinct.”
Designs from St. Petersburg-based Place Architecture call for the office space to be contained in a nine-story tower. The project’s 60 condos will be housed in an eight-story building, while the apartments will rise five stories and the parking garage six floors. The project will be tied together with 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space,
Of the 600 total parking spots being developed, 400 will be open to the public.
“We’re designing the project to be very synergistic with the demographic in that area,” says Miller, whose firm is co-developing 1300 First Ave. together with DDA Development, of Tampa, which built the Campbell Landings senior housing and Salvador condo projects in St. Petersburg, and Backstreets Capital.
“We thought the scale of the project was very appropriate to the area.”
Miller says Edge Central remains eager to begin work. Demolition is now expected to start sometime in the first quarter of next year, with delivery slated for early 2023.
“We’re conservative but we’re also bullish,” he says. “We like the site, we like the Edge District. I think it has some of the most vibrant restaurants in the entire city, and it’s a most walkable neighborhood.
“As soon as we see the light we’ll get going,” Miller says. “We want to be first out of the box. We just need to get through COVID-19 first.”