Seaward Development to begin work on 23-unit tower later this year
Seaward Development Co. Principal Patrick DiPinto III lives and works a short distance away from the site of his planned $110 million, luxury condominium tower Epoch, which is slated to break ground in downtown Sarasota this winter.
That both challenges and terrifies him.
“I’m a little afraid of my buyers,” he says. “These are discerning, high-quality people. They own multiple houses, and they want the best. What if I run into them on the street and they’re not happy? So I keep that in the forefront of my mind. We want our customers to have a great experience with us.”
The fear also challenges him to develop what he believes will be “the finest quality residential product that Sarasota has ever seen.”
“This is going to be a legacy project for our company,” DiPinto, a former New England custom home builder, says of the 18-story tower. “It’s going to be both contemporary and timeless at the same time.”
Delivery on the 23-unit tower, at 605 S. Gulfstream Ave., is anticipated in early 2021. To date, Seward — a partnership between DiPinto and financier David Hargreaves — has a dozen reservations, which are currently being converted to contracts following the state’s December acceptance of Epoch’s condo documents.
Epoch units are being priced from $3.3 million to more than $6.5 million — among the most expensive new condo units on the market at present in Sarasota.
But DiPinto says Epoch, which is being designed by Miami-based architect Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe — with a nod to the Sarasota School of Architecture’s abundant use of glass and light — will be worth the cost. Gilbane Building Co. will serve as the general contractor on the project.
“Everything from the parking to sound attenuation to the thicker concrete slab we’re putting in, to the fact that we’re insulating every interior wall — will be first rate,” DiPinto says. “The architects think we’re crazy.
“But we do it because what we’re really interested in doing is building relationships so we have repeat business, so our customers tell their friends,” DiPinto adds. “We hear of owners all the time who go to closings and have punch lists (of items that need repairs or changes) that are 28 pages long. Twenty eight pages! I want our owners to come to closing with no punch list. That’s why I personally inspect every unit. No one moves in until I’m ready for them to.”
Enduring the recession
DiPinto relocated to Sarasota from New England in late 2007 after visiting friends, just in time to see the Gulf Coast’s high-end residential market implode and fall into the longest and deepest economic morass in seven decades.
When the region’s economy bounced back, he started building a few custom homes, and then moved on to develop the 18-unit Park Residences of Lido Key, near the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club.
From there, he found a site in downtown Sarasota and built 7 One One Palm, a 16-unit condo project.
The 23-unit Epoch will arise on the site of the former 14-unit Versailles apartments, which Seaward bought at a cost of about $10 million over the course of months. Following the assemblage, Seward brought in Habitat for Humanity, which stripped the units of countertops, washers and dryers and other appliances, doors and anything else that the homebuilding charity could resell in its stores.
“We’re not interested in projects that have hundreds of units,” DiPinto says. “Because of the customization we provide, we simply can’t handle that many, and we’re fine with that.
“Most developers, they say their products or finishes are within industry standards for upscale projects,” DiPinto says. “I would never say that to a customer. We don’t want to be standard, we want to do things right.”
Although Epoch is competing directly for buyers with Kolter Group’s 73-unit Ritz-Carlton Residences at the Sarasota Quay site and Ascentia Development’s planned 56-unit Auteur project adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown — both 18 stories and at prices in the millions of dollars per unit — DiPinto believes his project will sell out faster and at a premium to the others.
“We think it starts with the location,” DiPinto says. “Nothing against the Ritz-Carlton or Auteur, they will no doubt be great projects. But our owners are going to be more interested in spending significant time here, not just popping into town for a few weeks a year. They like the idea of the tree-lined street, the boutique feel we’ll have because we’ll have units.
“And then you get into building details. Our view isn’t 180 degrees — it’s better than that. The Brise-Soleil architectural element will provide shading and light so that every unit will have a different experience,” DiPinto says. “And we’re going to have a 70-foot lap pool for residents. Seventy feet!”
Even more granularly, DiPinto points out the German-made appliances by Gaggenau, the Caesarstone quartz countertops and the Dornbracht Tara faucets in Epoch’s kitchens as evidence that the project will exemplify opulence and quality.
“The nice thing about Sarasota buyers is they get it,” DiPinto says. “They want quality, and they appreciate quality and they don’t mind paying for real quality. I don’t think we’re having to sell them so much as we’re providing them information regarding choices about the best building in town.”
DiPinto is convinced Seaward overpaid for the land for Epoch and spent more than it had to in hiring Gilbane, which was also the general contractor on Park Residences at Lido.
But both costs, he justifies, were ultimately necessary and a good investment.
“We may have paid millions of dollars more than perhaps we had to, but the way I look at it, it’s an insurance policy for us,” he says. “Gilbane is a superior builder. And ultimately, what we’re after is providing our customers with the best experience possible so that we can move on to the next project, whatever that may be, and have those buyers follow us there or tell their friends to do so.”