- March 27, 2020
Growing up in rural California, Brian Andrus was surrounded by a family steeped in medicine — so much so that he toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor himself.
But after a career as a business consultant that took him to Canada, Mexico and throughout Europe, Andrus in the early 1990s settled back in California and earned a general contractors’ and eventually a real estate broker’s license. He spent the rest of the decade buying homes, renovating them’ and flipping them for a profit.
In 2002, he visited some of his wife’s friends in Clearwater and was hooked. The couple moved to Florida a little over a year later.
“In California, especially at that time, I felt as if real estate prices had topped out,” says Andrus, 65. “I just couldn’t conceive of how prices could go much higher.”
In Clearwater, Andrus saw lower prices — and opportunity.
Within two years of forming Stonebridge Real Estate, a real estate brokerage firm that did both residential and commercial sales, Andrus was overseeing nearly two dozen agents. Today Stonebridge has 14.
“Things ramped up very quickly, in large part because real estate was booming everywhere,” he says. “But the more time that went on, the more I began focusing on the commercial side of things. It just made more sense to me and was more of an interest to me.”
His interest piqued, Andrus joined the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors (FGCAR) in 2004.
Four years later, he earned Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) and Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designations, becoming one of a select group of about 30 in Florida to hold both.
“I’m a big believer in getting good at something,” Andrus says. “And these organizations, they’re all professional, they strive to promote ethical behavior and their members are from all kinds of commerce. That variety is of great interest to me.”
Over time, Andrus focused on office and industrial projects, with sideroads into the sale of churches and Goodwill locations.
In late 2004, he acquired a two-story office complex at 1465 S. Fort Harrison Ave., in Clearwater. At the time, it was half full of tenants and completely suffering from deferred maintenance.
Andrus fixed the place up and brought it to 100% occupancy before selling it in 2013.
That same year, he and partners invested in a 12-story office building, at 33 N. Garden Ave., also in Clearwater. Like the Fort Harrison Avenue project, it was only half committed upon purchase, and in the years since Andrus has boosted tenancy to 96%.
Two years ago, Andrus became president of FGCAR for 2017.
“He was a great leader at a time we were as an industry experiencing going from a recession to transitioning to a full bull market,” says Wendy Giffin, a director at commercial real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield’s Tampa office and FGCAR’s current president.
“He steered the group with a steady compass and kept the membership strong and the focus very positive.”
Having tackled commercial brokerage, contracting and leadership at FGCAR, Andrus is preparing to take on his most daunting role to date: Developer.
His Marina Bay 880, in Clearwater, is slated to contain 87 condominiums in a pair of eight-story buildings, with another eight townhomes all wrapped around a marina.
The $50 million project is scheduled to break ground next month, with completion slated for mid-2021.
“I like the creative elements of development,” Andrus says. “And you can always learn in this business. I also feel a responsibility to try and make things better.”
Units at Marina Bay 880, which will be just outside Clearwater’s downtown, are expected to be priced from $600,000 to $1.5 million, and offer amenities such as a resort-style swimming pool and below-residence parking.
Andrus says residents also will have the ability to lease one of 66 boat slips that will be offered.
“The way I see it, you just have to always keep moving up.”