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Condo Craze: Tampa Top 10

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  • | 6:00 p.m. March 2, 2006
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Condo Craze

Tampa Top 10

If Gulf Coast construction companies were seeking a savior in the supposed real estate slowdown, they found one. In a word: Condos.

Condominiums projects, some mixed in with office and retail, are the lifeline of the industry. Form Naples to Tampa, a majority of the top projects have some connection to condos.

Business is so good at some places, work is being turned down as if this was the go-go days of say, 2003. But as in all good times, there are cautionary tales and trends to watch out for. One theme that keeps cropping up in interviews with contractors, builders and developers is a lack of qualified workers. That leads to some companies not taking on jobs or taking longer to finish projects. One of Sarasota's largest masonry contractors said he has to turn down eight out of ten bids because he doesn't have the staff.

The high cost of products and materials is taking a toll on the industry, too.

While attitudes differ in each region, the general consensus is that times are still good. Here's a glimpse into three Gulf Coast regions.

Tampa-St. Petersburg

In the Tampa Bay area, condominium towers are transforming downtowns in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Tampa and Clearwater still lag behind St. Petersburg, where several residential towers and Baywalk have already made the city a place to live, work and play.

But projects are sprouting up in Tampa, especially the Channelside district. More than half-a-dozen towers are planned for the area that was once only a place where freighters docked and were repaired. The waterfront area, only blocks from downtown Tampa, now has the Florida Aquarium and cruise ships. Soon it will be home to thousands of people.

Clearwater has several big projects planned, including Acqua at Downtown Plaza, a mixed-use project that will include 12 movie screens and is expected to cost more than $100 million.

And high-rises continue to be built in downtown St. Petersburg. Joel Cantor says his tower, Signature Place, will rival Trump Tower Tampa, now slated for completion in 2008.

Skipper Vaughan, who works in Dallas-based Beck Group's Tampa office, says condos and mixed-use projects are keeping area builders busy.

"The market is really fluid right now," Vaughan says. "There's a lot of work out there. The trade contractors are struggling for manpower. We're even going out of the state to secure certain trades because the local trades here are swamped. The market is about the best I've ever seen."

The general contracting company finds subcontractors from other states through American Building Contractors, which has offices across the United States, he says.

Trades people, including concrete frame contractors, have more work than they can handle, he says, adding, "it's making it more difficult to get good pricing because the market is so hot. It's driving the prices up. In some cases, it's causing developers to take a second look once we give them a price of what it's going to cost them to construct it."

Vaughan knows of at least two developers, whom he declined to identify, that decided to sell property rather than develop it, he says. "Another developer may look at it and say it's not that big a deal," he adds.

Construction costs, including material and labor, are up as much as 50% in the past year, Vaughan says. Demand is expected to send the cost of drywall up 40% or more by year's end, he adds.

To keep costs down, some developers are buying building products today and storing them until they're needed, he says. Examples are drywall materials and metal studs.

"Whatever you can pre-purchase," Vaughan says, "you end up saving a bucket in the long run."

Beck's Tampa office has added about 10 more salaried employees in the last year to keep up with the construction boom, Vaughan says. One of the company's newer niches is acting as development manager for developers.

"I don't see it slowing down," he says. "Of course, I don't have a crystal ball."

Top 10

1. Trump Tower Tampa

Site: 111 S. Ashley Drive, Tampa

Estimated Construction Value: $225 million

Start Date: Clearing and ground preparation, 2005.

Estimated Completion: December 2008

General Contractor: Turner Construction

Owners: SimDag LLC and Donald Trump

Details: Donald Trump and local development group SimDag LLC have gotten together to build the tallest tower on Florida's West Coast: The 52-story, 190-unit luxury condominium building will be 593 feet high.

Condominiums originally ranged in price from $700,000 to more than $6 million. But prices increased as construction costs went up.

Designed by Smith/Barnes Santiesteban Architecture, plans call for a swanky two-story lobby, restaurant and retail shops on the ground floor and parking on the next nine stories. The 10th floor will feature amenities for owners - concierge services, valet services, a catering kitchen, spa and fitness center and outdoor pool.

The Toni Everett Co. is handling sales.

2. Sandpearl Resort

Site: Mandalay Avenue, Clearwater Beach

Estimated Construction Value: $170 million

Start Date: August 2005

Estimated Completion: 2007

General Contractor: Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

Owner: JMC Communities

Details: Designed by Fort Lauderdale-based Adache Group Architects, JMC Communities is building a beachfront project with 115 condominiums and a 253-room four-diamond luxury hotel that will feature an 11,000-square-foot full-service spa, fitness center and beach club. In addition, there'll be 11,000 square feet of retail space and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space on 5.5 acres, including 700 feet of direct beachfront.

The architectural character of the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach is founded upon classic West Indies style and island informality.

3. Signature Place

Site: First Avenue South and First Street, St. Petersburg

Estimated Construction Value: $158 million

Start Date: Ground clearing began in February; construction begins in April.

Estimated Completion: Third quarter, 2008.

General Contractor: Kraft Construction Co.

Owner: Joel Cantor, founder/CEO of Tampa's Gulf Atlantic Real Estate Cos.

Details: After Joel Cantor decided to build a condominium tower on the city block he owned in downtown St. Petersburg, he engaged one of the world's most famous designers, Ralph Johnson of Chicago's Perkins +Will. Johnson, considered one of the world's 10 best architects, designed Boeing's world headquarters and the international center at Chicago's O'Hare airport.

Cantor boasts that Signature Place, which will include retail and office on the ground level, will trump Donald Trump's planned downtown Tampa tower.

The 35-story tower, designed to look like a gossamer sail, will feature a five-story waterfall from the garage-top pool area. The 900,000-square-foot building, which required a height variance from the Federal Aviation Administration, is expected to be St. Petersburg's tallest building. It will include 40,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail at the ground level.

4. The Towers of Channelside

Site: 1103 E. Cumberland Ave., Tampa

Estimated Construction Value: $132 million

Start Date: July 2005

Estimated Completion: June 2007 for tower No. 2; and September 2007 for tower No. 1.

General Contractor: Batson-Cook Construction

Owners: Towers of Channelside LLC - partners Michael McGuinness, Richard Sacchi and Brad Hite.

Details: The Channelside District, once a commercial ship building and repair area, is being turned into a popular retail and entertainment complex. Demand in the district is strong for condominiums, according to Michael McGuinness, one of three partners building the Towers of Channelside. All but four of the project's 257 condominiums are under contract to be sold, he says.

The two towers, designed by Curtis Gaines Hall Jones Architects of Ybor City, will include a 27,000-square-foot health club and spa. In addition, there'll be another 10,000 square feet of retail space, with a 4,700-square-foot lounge. The four-level parking garage will have spaces for 660 vehicles.

The name of the spa and its owners have not yet been announced, McGuinness says. But a contract has been signed.

5. 400 Beach Drive

Site: Beach Drive and Fourth Avenue N.E., St Petersburg

Estimated Construction Value: $125 million

Start Date: November 2005

Estimated Completion: Late 2007

General Contractor: Opus South Development

Owner: Opus Development LLC

Details: Opus South Development LLC is building a 29-story tower with 93 residential units, plus stores and restaurants at ground level.

"We've sold well over $100 million to date," says Jerry T. Shaw, senior vice president of Opus operations in Tampa.

Prices for the residential units start in the $800,000s. The company bought the property more than two years ago from the John M. Hamilton family.

6. Grand Central at Kennedy

Site: 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa

Estimated Construction Value: $103 million

Start Date: April 2005

Estimated Completion: Phases beginning late 2006 and continuing through summer of 2007.

General Contractor: Hardin Construction Co.

Owner: Mercury Advisors LLC

Details: Grand Central at Kennedy includes 392 units in two towers. Urban Studio Architecture of Tampa is the design architect and Scott Partnership of Orlando is the production architect.

The East tower will have 12 levels, while the West will have 14 stories. There will be 108,000 square feet of retail with 70,000 square feet of office space.

The owner's representative is Beck Construction.

7. SkyPoint

Site: 777 Ashley Drive, Tampa

Estimated Construction Value: More than $100 million

Start Date: June 2005 Estimated Completion: First quarter 2007

General Contractor: R.J. Griffin

Owner: Novare-intown Tampa Development LLC

Details: Downtown Tampa's first residential high-rise was started in June and is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2007. Atlanta's Novare Group Holdings LLC and Tampa's intown group are developing the 32-story, 380-unit tower that includes 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. All but four of the one- and two-bedroom units, which started in the $170s, have been sold.

The contemporary building, designed by the Preston Partnership of Atlanta, will feature floor-to-ceiling glass, large balconies, 10-foot ceilings, kitchens with granite and stainless steel, and high-speed Internet access and pre-wiring for surround sound, ambient audio and satellite television.

Amenities include 24-hour concierge services, virtual art gallery, plasma TVs and controlled access. SkyPoint's Premier Sky Club will feature a fitness center, an elevated terrace with grilling areas, an outdoor pool and a sundeck with a Wi-Fi hot spot. The project is marketed by Smith & Associates Realtors, Tampa.

8. Acqua at Downtown Plaza

Site: Four acres between Osceola and North Fort Harrison Avenue, Clearwater.

Estimated Construction Value: $100 million

Start Date: 2006

Estimated Completion: Summer 2007

Owner: Clearwater Development LLC

Details: This mixed-use project, designed by Baker Barrios Architects of Orlando, is being built on four acres on the north side of Cleveland Street and is expected to be twice the height of any other downtown Clearwater building, at 377 feet. The bending glass tower will have 245 condos, 35,000 square feet of retail space, a 55,000-square-foot movie theater and parking for 1,100 vehicles.

The existing AmSouth bank and office building will be refurbished in the same style as the new building, a blend of art modern and Chicago style.

9. Water's Edge

Site: Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue, Clearwater

Estimated Construction Value: $100 million

Start Date: Land clearing, 2005

Estimated Completion: January 2008

General Contractor: Opus South

Owner: Opus South

Details: This 25-story, 153-unit condominium tower will sit where Calvary Baptist Church stood for decades. About 10,500 square feet of retail is planned for the ground level. Units will start at $500,000.

10. The Place at Channelside

Site: 918 Channelside Drive, Tampa

Estimated Construction Value: $95 million

Start Date: August 2005

Estimated Completion: April 2007

General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease Inc.

Owner: Key Developers Group LLC

Details: There are only 12 units left in this mixed-use project designed by architects Hariri Pontarini and Marc Van Steenlandt's Studiomarc.

Phase one consists of two eight-story buildings with a total of 245 units and 13,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The units still available for sale start at $589,900 and go higher than $2 million.


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