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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 4 years ago

Diamond Days

A real estate developer's strategy to combat competitors, in what's become a busy marketplace, is to accentuate the positives in his own project. The plan is working.
by: Mark Gordon Observer Staff

Nearly everything about Tom Mannausa's luxury downtown Sarasota condo project says new, fresh and sleek.

But the fact that the developer is even building condos in downtown Sarasota, which has lacked new projects for more than five years, is historic in and of itself. It's reminiscent of the old days, circa 2000-2004, when projects came out of the ground on a regular basis.

Mannausa's project is The Jewel, a 17-story tower planned for Main Street and Gulfstream Avenue. The location is a short walk from the bayfront and in the middle of the cultural and arts hub of downtown Sarasota. “It will be a very modern design, but not a spaceship design,” says Mannausa. “We think it fits very appropriately with downtown Sarasota.”

A small, yet well-heeled group of buyers agrees, given 15 of 19 residential units at The Jewel are reserved. Mannausa has already begun to turn those reservations, which include $50,000 deposits for a half-floor unit or $100,000 for a full-floor unit, into sales contracts. Prices range from $1.25 million to $4.1 million. There are also six commercial units in the property, and two of those are reserved.

A $50 million project, The Jewel is also a trendsetter: Several other projects, both in downtown Sarasota and the surrounding area, have been announced in the past year. Mannausa, however, says he's not worried about competing projects, which he predicts will do well.

“The nice thing about new projects downtown is that it brings people, and that's what drives the economy,” says Mannausa. “Five years from now downtown will have a new skyline look. And that's great.”

Mannausa is also confident two of The Jewel's biggest selling points, luxury and location, will be his marketplace ally. Says Mannausa: “Our project has some unique architectural features.”

Those include LED lights inside and outside and a third-floor amenity deck with a yoga room, 20-meter pool, sauna, synthetic putting green and tennis court. Interiors of the individual condos will include porcelain tile from Italy, 12- to 14-foot ceilings and TVs inside the mirrors of the master bathrooms.

Mannausa, in real estate development for 35 years, made his first financial commitment to The Jewel in December 2010, when he bought a vacant lot for $870,000 in a short sale. Three years later the project is ready for construction work on the tower, which Mannausa expects to begin in by mid-February.

The entire project should take about 16 months, he says. The lead construction firm is Boston-based Suffolk Construction. Suffolk, with Florida offices in Fort Myers, Miami and West Palm Beach, also built the Palm Avenue parking garage in downtown Sarasota, a few blocks from The Jewel.

Finally, Mannausa says the permit process with Sarasota city officials was smooth. That's somewhat of a surprise, considering the city's reputation with the development and construction community historically, hasn't always been smooth. But Mannausa says the city employees he's worked with on The Jewel have been “responsive and exemplary.”

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