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Construction set to begin on largest residential tower in region

Groundbreaking at 400 Central in downtown St. Petersburg brings colorful developer and protesters together

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 4:12 p.m. October 18, 2021
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
COURTESY: Work to begin soon on 400 Central, which developers call the largest residential tower on the Gulf Coast.
COURTESY: Work to begin soon on 400 Central, which developers call the largest residential tower on the Gulf Coast.
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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ST. PETERSBURG —Developers of what is expected to be the tallest residential tower on the Gulf Coast of Florida held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday Oct. 18, complete with a flashy New York developer and a couple of fair housing protesters facing off.

The real work on the 46-story, 515-foot 400 Central is expected to begin in coming weeks. When complete, the condominium tower will include 301 units, an observatory and several penthouses. Prices will start at $800,000. In addition to the residences, the property will include 45,000 square feet of retail and office space.

The development is being built on a 2.3-acre site on Central Avenue and 4th Street South, property which once housed the cheese grater building.

The property is being developed by The New York-based real estate firm Red Apple Group. The firm is owned by John Catsimatidis, a colorful New York billionaire who counts among his holdings the New York City supermarket chain Gristedes and who has twice run —unsuccessfully — for mayor of the city. Forbes lists his worth at $3.7 billion.

Catsimatidis says one reason he chose to build in St. Petersburg was familial ties. His wife Margo’s parents settled in the city about 40 years ago and he's been visiting ever since.

What drew his in-laws hasn’t changed. He believes the area will continue to be a draw for people from the North, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest who are drawn to the warmer weather and lower taxes. This, he says, is especially true after COVID-19 and people were freer to work from home or knew they needed to make a change.

As for 400 Central, Catsimatidis wanted to build something special and says, using the lively lexicon honed during a lifetime on New York City's streets, that he argued with “the accountants” every step of the way to make his vision a reality.

“‘It’s too expensive to build an observation tower. It’s too expensive to build an extra elevator,’” he says. “I wanted to build something I am proud of and I don’t give a shit if I have to spend a few extra million.”

Throughout the groundbreaking ceremony, a small but loud and disruptive group of affordable housing advocates chanted “Your luxury, our displacement” during the speeches. Form the stage, Catsimatidis shouted for them to chant louder and approached them afterward to told them to “Yell louder. You have the right to speak.”

But that did not mean he was going to give them a free pass.

“God bless you,” he said from the stage. “If you worked harder, you could live here. Go get a job.”


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