Two new buildings are planned for Ybor City, with work well underway on the projects of developer Darryl Shaw and DDA Development.
But the four-story apartment building, Casa Marti, and the five-story office complex, Casa Gomez, are not part of Shaw's ambitious Gas Worx project for Ybor City. Rather, the two buildings (Marti is at the corner of Nuccio Parkway and East Seventh Avenue, and Gomez is at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 13th Street) are a different passion project for Shaw — Ybor City's biggest private-sector advocate since he made his first land purchase there in 1989.
What sets the two complexes apart from Gas Worx is that here, in the city's Barrio Latino, the developers have to comply with the architectural district's requirements. (Gas Worx does not, because it is outside the barrio's boundaries.)
The more stringent oversight did not deter Shaw, who owns 100% of the project, or his development partner, Tampa-based DDA Development. Instead, Shaw embraced the requirements Barrio Latino officials sought, and in some cases exceeded their goals.
For one, DDA plans to dig up Eighth Avenue between 13th Street and Nuccio Parkway, to expose the neighborhood's old brick road, which was long ago paved over. Shaw says the team will then try to save as much as they can of the old brick road, and then add new bricks, much like the streets of many parts of Ybor City. Why do the extra work? Shaw, in a rare interview, says the style of Ybor is worth it.
"That's why people love Ybor," says Shaw, while giving the Business Observer a tour with DDA officials – which sometimes involved passing the feral chickens the Tampa district is known for.
Also present was Kevin Gardner, a partner in DDA, and Bowen Arnold, DDA principal, who can quickly list features the buildings have that will blend in with Ybor City's vaunted past. That's another aspect Shaw says he values.
"We've got a lot of decorative brick," says Arnold. "We've got traditional storefronts, window and door detailing reminiscent of Ybor's early commercial buildings."
Casa Gomez will cost $9 million to complete, Arnold says. Casa Marti, the larger residential complex, will cost $30 million. Work began on the new buildings in the second quarter of 2022.
The apartment complex will likely be ready for the first renters by the end of the year, or Jan. 1, Arnold says.
At 1220 E. Seventh Ave., Casa Marti will have 127 rental units, spread over three floors, that go for market rates. The apartment mix will be studios, one bedrooms and two bedrooms.
The apartments, mostly aimed at urban professionals, will offer a "landscaped interior courtyard with social areas, a beautiful new arched grand entry over 7th Avenue, 9' 4" ceilings, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances," as well as a private clubroom and a pet-washing station, according to DDA's website.
The first floor of Casa Marti will seek to attract a restaurant, a gym and possibly some commercial space, including the leasing office, Arnold says. Its restaurant will have a view of the Ybor City gateway arch, something Arnold says diners will like.
Shaw says Casa Marti is not just for urban professionals and younger workers, as the team is finding out. Some renters as old as baby boomers are interested. "We've got a very interesting (age and demographic) spread into the 70s," says Shaw.
Arnold says that's because Ybor is considered an amenity in and of itself, near the trolley and near a number of grocery stores and eateries. It's also walkable to many Tampa sites.
According to DDA's website, the building is named after "Cuban patriot José Marti, hero of the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. Marti raised funds and rallied support for the liberation of his homeland from a base in Ybor City."
At 1229 East Eighth Ave., meanwhile, Casa Gomez is a five-story office building, painted white, that will consist of 22,000 square feet. Three floors are for business tenants, and the first floor is aimed at a potential restaurant. The fifth floor, the rooftop, will feature more space for the restaurant, with views of downtown Tampa and Ybor City.
Already, two of the three business floors have been leased. Arnold says NextPath Career partners will lease one floor, while natural gas company New Wave Energy of New York will lease another.
As for the first floor with the rooftop option, that poses a tougher recruitment assignment for DDA and its real estate agents. Arnold is bullish on those prospects, believing diners will be drawn to see the view.
On the namesake, Casa Gomez is named for Gen. Juan Gualberto Gómez (1854-1933), another hero of the Cuban War of Independence. "After the war, Gómez continued work as a journalist and advocacy of racial equality in an independent Cuban society," the DDA website says. "The highest prizes in Cuban journalism are named after him, as is the international airport in Matanzas, Cuba."
One thing the Barrio Latino did not require was parking, even for the apartments. The site is near a city-owned parking garage with 1,500 spaces, and another nearby garage has another 1,500 spaces, Arnold says.
Arnold expects some spaces will be used by renters, even rented on a monthly basis for the city rate. Arnold also expects many renters will not own cars, and will use ride-shares such as Uber, or public transit.
"It's truly an urban deal," says Arnold. "But the amenities — it's the location in Ybor."
Even the alleyway between the buildings will be designed with care and with art, and it will be closed to cars going through, Arnold says.
Shaw and DDA are on the right track, using the "live, work and play" ethic in Ybor City, says one city official.
"Ybor City is one of the jewels of Tampa," says City Councilman Alan Clendenin, an at-large representative. "It has heart and soul."
Clendenin says the city and Shaw have done a good job maintaining the character of Ybor City, once a large Cuban neighborhood famous for its cigar factories, its Cuban patriots and more. "Darryl Shaw has played a pivotal role in that," says Clendenin. "He's really adopted these projects."
Two things Clendenin likes is that Shaw has incorporated art and transit into his Ybor City plans.
Transit is particularly important as the city works to promote its streetcar project over its 2.5 miles.
There's even talk Ybor City itself will likely be Tampa's "terminus" stop on the Brightline high-speed train route, which ran its first trip from Miami to Orlando in September. Brightline CEO Mike Reininger told reporters in September that Tampa Bay was "the next big market for us," suggesting a connection to Miami via Orlando.
Shaw says he is aware of the speculation.
Clendenin says he envisions a Brightline connection from Ybor City to the Magic Kingdom, then straight to the Orlando International Airport.
Jim Stinson is the Business Observer's Tampa Bay business reporter and editor, having previously written about business and policy in Washington, D.C.; Rochester, New York; Gary, Indiana; and Daytona Beach. He attended Boston University for business and Indiana University for journalism.