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Southwest Florida: Residential boom



Residential Boom

A construction spree has been under way for several years in St. Peters burg, with new apartments, condos and town homes popping up throughout what's arguably the state's most vibrant downtown. About 850 housing units have been built since 2013, and another 880 units are under construction. With 591 more units cleared for construction, the stock of multi-family housing downtown is poised to grow 40% this decade.

"St. Pete has become a lifestyle destination," says Kevin Yeager, an office and retail broker at Colliers International Tampa Bay. "It's very different from when it was known as kind of a retirement area."

Yeager says a walkable waterfront with a bustling restaurant and nightlife scene is attracting young people from all over the region.

Most of the new development has been rental apartments, but that's starting to change. Last fall, Kolter Group broke ground on a condominium tower called ONE St. Peters burg, with units listed for between $500,000 and $3 million. At 41 stories, ONE will be downtown's tallest building. Work also is under way on The Salvador, a 13-story, 74-unit condominium near the Dali Museum.

Meanwhile, Publix is building a second grocery store downtown, and a 110,000-sq.-ft. Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is under construction.

At the southern edge of downtown, the University of South Florida St. Peters burg is building a new home for its business school, and All Children's Hospital John Hopkins Medicine is constructing an $85-million, 225,000-sq.-ft. research and education center. Meanwhile, the city's largest civic project in more than two decades is underway. The new St. Petersburg Pier, extending 1,380 feet into Tampa Bay, is to open in fall 2018. "It's going to be the iconic symbol for St. Petersburg," Yeager says.


All Eyes on Vinik

Ask anyone in Tampa's real estate community about the key to revitalizing downtown, and they'll probably say the same thing: Jeff Vinik's planned remake of the Channel District.

Vinik, a former hedge fund manager who owns the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, has joined with Bill Gates' private investment company to begin transforming the parking lots around Amalie Arena into a $2-billion, 40-acre mixed-use community.

A little more than a year after unveiling his vision for a "live-work play" destination, Vinik says the project is moving off the drawing board. A reconfiguration of the street grid will get under way soon to make the district more walkable and inviting for bicyclists, he says. Construction will then begin on the first phase, including a 500-room hotel, up to 1.2 million square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and 1,000 multi-family housing units. Vinik estimates that the first phase will cost $1 billion and take three to four years to complete.

All told, plans call for 6 million square feet of mixed-use space over the next decade. The University of South Florida will build a medical school and heart institute at the downtown development, and Vinik hopes to lure corporate tenants.

Meanwhile, Port Tampa Bay is seeking development partners for a proposed $1.7-billion project on 45 acres of port-owned property near Vinik's site. The port, which has yet to set a construction start date, envisions 9 million square feet of mixed-use space over the next 15 to 20 years.

Local developer Larry Feldman, who plans to break ground this fall on a 52-story mixed-use building called River walk Tower, says the developments will create a "virtuous cycle" of revival in Tampa. More residents will draw shops and restaurants, which in turn will draw even more residents, he says.

Feldman and his partners at Tower Realty paid $12 million last year for 1½ acres facing Tampa's newly completed River walk. Their building will have a seven-story garage, 215,000 square feet of office space and about 200 condos. Opening is scheduled for 2018.

"The more development, the better," Feldman says. "What we're doing is going to be completely different than what Vinik or anyone else is doing downtown. We're talking about million-dollar-plus condos with to-die-for views and luxury finishes."


$700 Million in Investments

In September 2014, business and government leaders gathered at an empty bay front lot in downtown Sarasota for the start of a construction project. West Palm Beach based Kolter Group had tabled the project after the market tanked seven years earlier but was ready to break ground on twin 18-story towers consisting of a Westin hotel and a 141- unit condominium called the Vue.

Within five months, the Vue had sold half of its units for between $879,000 and $2.65 million. Today, with nearly all the units sold, Kolter is finishing the project and moving on to another mixed-use development downtown.

In March, Kolter launched sales for an 11-story building that will include 157 condos, 37,000 square feet of retail space and 15,000 square feet of offices. "We're seeing a lot of emptynesters and Baby Boomers who want to come to the Sunshine State and live in an urban environment," says Bobby Julien, Kolter's CEO. "Walkability is a huge selling feature."

All told, more than 30 projects are under construction or planned for downtown Sarasota, representing an investment of more than $692 million. Most projects involve apartments or condos, but the market also is seeing a surge in hotel development.

In February, the 10-story, 138-room Aloft Sarasota became the first hotel in a decade to open downtown, and three more hotels are under construction: Kolter's 255-room Westin, a 200-room Embassy Suites and a 163- room Hotel Sarasota.

"Everyone wants to be downtown," says Mark Kauffman, a retired orthopedic doctor who has been developing properties downtown for the past two decades. He says he's moving forward with three projects of his own — a four-story mixed-use project in the Rosemary District next to downtown, a four-story office building anchored by Sabal Palm Bank and a six-story building that will bring more condos and offices downtown. "It's where the action is," he says.

People to Watch

» Todd Jones: For the first time in its 86-year history, Lake land-based Publix has picked a CEO who is not a member of the founding Jenkins family. Jones, a one-time store clerk from New Smyrna Beach, will succeed retiring CEO Ed Crenshaw on May 1. Publix's president since 2008, Jones faces an onslaught of competition from discount food chains, online grocers and specialty retailers like Trader Joe's. He also takes over as Publix becomes a key player in downtown revitalization efforts — over the next two years, Publix will open its first store in Tampa's Channel District and a second store in downtown St. Peters burg. Meanwhile, the private, employee-owned company plans to build the first supermarket on a college campus in Florida, a 29,000-sq.-ft. store at the University of South Florida in Tampa next year.

» Brian Auld: The Harvard MBA grad became president of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014, overseeing the baseball club's search for a new stadium. In January, the St. Petersburg City Council voted 5-3 to allow the Rays to explore sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties before the team's lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027. Auld, who told the council the Rays remain "100% committed to Tampa Bay," will have a hand in deciding where the team ends up.

» Shelley Broader: As CEO of Chico's, Broader must boost the $2.7-billion women's apparel company's sagging stock price and goose sales. In December, just months after the Fort Myers-based company was reported to be a takeover target, Broader succeeded retiring CEO David Dyer, who shifted to the role of vice chairman. Broader brings more than 20 years of retail leadership experience to Chico's, including a recent stint as head of Walmart's Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Chico's has some 1,500 stores in North America.

» Syd Kitson: Kitson says the "time is finally right" for Babcock Ranch, an 18,000-acre masterplanned community that he's calling the first solar-powered town in the U. S. About 20 miles northeast of Fort Myers, the project has been in discussion for years but got shelved during the recession. FPL now is building a 75-megawatt solar plant on site, and the first phase of construction has begun. Kitson, who heads Palm Beach Gardens-based Kitson & Partners, says the community ultimately will have 19,500 residences, an "engaging" downtown, lakes and nature trails and a public and private transportation system of shared, driverless vehicles.

» Brian Lamb: In late 2014, Lamb had just become chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership when longtime CEO Stuart Rogel announced he was stepping down. Lamb, north Florida regional president at Fifth Third Bank, launched a national search for a new regional economic development leader, eventually tapping Rick Homans, then-president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. Lamb, who now heads the partnership's public policy council, pledges to aggressively promote the region's interests in Tallahassee, including securing more money to build USF's medical school in downtown Tampa.

» Nelleke van Lindonk: In 2014, Dutch native van Lindonk launched a conference called PINC (People, Ideas, Nature and Creativity) in Sarasota, aiming to inspire and entertain attendees with a daylong series of presentations by international speakers. Last December, PINC's second annual conference drew nearly 500 participants, who heard from experts on topics ranging from music and photography to science and medicine.

» Mark Sharpe: A former Hillsborough County commissioner, Sharpe leads a new effort in north Tampa to transform the area around the University of South Florida into an innovation district. The non-profit Tampa Innovation Alliance represents USF and other large employers in the area, including Busch Gardens, Florida Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and University Mall. Sharpe, the alliance's executive director, says the goal is to create an environment that "supports and expands the development of high-wage, highskilled jobs."

» Rick Baker: Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who's credited with jump-starting St. Petersburg's renaissance during his tenure from 2001-10, has maintained a strong profile, first as an economic development official for USF and more recently as president of development company Edwards Group. Baker, a Republican, has been considering a run for the congressional seat being vacated by U. S. Rep. David Jolly, a Republican now running for U.S. Senate.

Regional Roundup

» Hillsborough County

County population: 1.35 million, „¼+6.7% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Per capita income: $44,230

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport will open about 30 concessions this year as part of a nearly $1-billion expansion and renovation project that's expected to continue through 2017. Plans call for a new people mover and rental car facility and an enlarged main terminal, including a total of 65 new shops and restaurants. Port Tampa Bay plans to have two new gantry cranes up and running to handle larger container ships by May, just in time for a widened Panama Canal. Google Fiber is considering bringing its high-speed internet service to Tampa — one of two potential Google Fiber markets in Florida, along with Jacksonville.

» Pinellas County

County population: 943,057, „¼+2.8% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.2%

Per capita income: $50,447

CLEARWATER BEACH — With one project complete and three more under way, Clearwater Beach will have nearly 1,000 new hotel rooms by the end of 2017. A 230- room beachfront Opal Sands Resort opened in February. A 450-room Wyndham Grand Resort, scheduled to open next year, will be Clear water Beach's largest property. Also under construction: A 181-room Hampton Inn and a 125-room Holiday Inn. To alleviate parking shortages, the city of Clearwater is building a 702-space garage at the north end of the beach.

ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER — The St. Pete/Clearwater area attracted 3. 2 million overnight visitors in 2014, up from 2.5 million in 2010, according to the county's convention and visitors bureau. International tourism has been especially strong: Between 2013 and 2014, the area saw a 6.5% increase in international visitation, vs. 2.6% growth statewide.

» Sarasota County

County population: 403,414, „¼+5.7% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Per capita income: $62,624

NORTH PORT — Suncoast Technical College will begin constructing a new campus off I-75 in North Port this summer. The first phase, which includes a new county library and classroom space, is to open in August 2017.

SARASOTA — The Ringling College of Art and Design recently broke ground on a $9.2-million, 38,000-sq.-ft. visual arts center to house programs in ceramics, digital fabrications, glass sculpture, photography, printmaking and woodworking. It also is building a library, modern art museum and a professional sound stage and post-production studio for its film program.

» Lee County

County population: 693,165, „¼+9.9% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Per capita income: $47,558

ESTERO — In January, car rental company Hertz formally opened its new $105-million, 248,600-sq.- ft. Headquarters. About a third of its 650 employees relocated from New Jersey and other areas. Hertz is looking to hire 75 additional employees in Estero.

FORT MYERS — Florida Gulf Coast University is creating a tuition rebate program to encourage graduates to get to work. Those who complete their bachelor's degrees in four years or less and get a job within six months of graduation could be eligible to earn back their freshman year tuition expenses. FGCU plans to pay for the program through its foundation, which is supported by private donations.

LEE COUNTY — Between mid-2014 and mid-2015, employers in Lee County expanded their payrolls 6.4%, the second-largest increase nationwide after Utah County, Utah.

» Manatee County

County population: 359,279, „¼+9.8% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Per capita income: $46,342

BRADENTON — IMG Academy recently unveiled a 35,000-sq.-ft. campus center with recreational and dining space to accommodate more students. In the past year, IMG also has completed a 72,000-sq.-ft. academic center with classrooms, art studios and science labs.

ELLENTON — Feld Entertainment is relocating its motor sports division from Illinois to Manatee County. Feld expects to complete the transition by 2020, creating 200 local jobs.

» Charlotte County

County population: 171,347, „¼+7.4% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 5.1%

Per capita income: $41,404

PUNTA GORDA — Punta Gorda Airport tripled the size of its terminal to about 56,000 square feet as part of an $8-million expansion project completed in February. Discount carrier Allegiant Air, which flies to 30 midsize U.S. cities from Punta Gorda, drove a 33% increase in the airport's passenger traffic last year.

» Collier County

County population: 358,271, „¼+9.3% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Per capita income: $71,596

COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County's growth management department posted double-digit increases in building permits for both commercial and residential projects last year. Permits rose 27% for one- and two-family homes, 21% for commercial buildings and 10% for multi-family housing.

» Polk County

County population: 644,479, „¼+5.6% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Per capita income: $37,889

POLK COUNTY — The I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa continues to be a prime target for warehouse and industrial development. In January, Illinois based Brennan Investment Group announced plans for a $100-million speculative industrial project on a 112-acre tract off I-4 near Florida Polytechnic University. The first phase of the 1.2-million-sq.-ft. development, named Center State Logistic Park, will consist of two buildings with 720,000 square feet; construction on the second phase will begin after the first phase is leased, Brennan says. The development joins a larger cluster of warehouses in Polk County, including an Amazon distribution center.

» Citrus County

County population: 145,529, „¼+4.1% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 6.6%

Per capita income: $37,727

CITRUS COUNTY — Duke Energy has begun site preparation work for a $1.5-billion combined-cycle natural gas plant. It expects to bring the plant's first 820 megawatts online in spring 2018 and the second 820 megawatts online by December 2018.

» Glades County

County population: 13,830, „¼+5.3% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 5.5%

Per capita income: $26,411

MOORE HAVEN — The new 40,000-sq.-ft. Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center in Moore Haven has introduced a certification program for commercial truck drivers.

» Hernando County

County population: 183,471, „¼+6.1% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 6.0%

Per capita income: $34,711

HERNANDO COUNTY — Micro Matic USA, a maker of beer-dispensing equipment, recently opened a 60,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution center at the Brooksville- Tampa Bay Regional Airport. Micro Matic, which also has a local production facility, is part of a growing manufacturing sector in Hernando. Between January 2012 and January 2015, the number of manufacturing jobs countywide rose 36%. Meanwhile, the county's unemployment rate has fallen from 6.9% a year ago.

» Pasco County

County population: 500,919, „¼+7.3% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 5.0%

Per capita income: $36,086

WESLEY CHAPEL — After raising $18 million in venture funding last fall, medical technology company CareSync, based in Wesley Chapel, plans to grow its U.S. work force to more than 600, up from 112 at the end of September. The company's chronic disease management platform facilitates care coordination among patients, family and medical providers. CareSync accounted for more than half of the $32 million in private investment that went to Florida startups in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to a MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

» Hardee County

County population: 28,235, „¼+5.7% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 6.2%

Per capita income: $28,310

HARDEE COUNTY — The Career Development Center at South Florida State College joined online service College Central Network to connect students, alumni and residents to jobs. College Central Network provides job boards, as well as online tools for creating cover letters and resumes and a database for internships.

» DeSoto County

County population: 35,276, „¼+2.0% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Per capita income: $27,347

DESOTO COUNTY — Publix is building its first grocery store in DeSoto County, with plans to open this summer in Arcadia. Race car driver Ivor Wigham plans to have a new training ground for rally car drivers up and running this fall. Wigham's Power Auto paid the state $2.5 million for land where a juvenile corrections facility and mental health hospital once stood.

» Hendry County

County population: 38,860, „¼+0.3% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 7.3%

Per capita income: $34,930

HENDRY COUNTY — Brent Kettler joined the Hendry County Economic Development Council in January as executive director. He previously was lead data consultant for the FutureMakers Coalition, an effort aimed at increasing the number of people in southwest Florida with a post-secondary education.

» Highlands County

County population: 102,546, „¼+4.4% vs. 2011

Unemployment rate: 6.3%

Per capita income: $34,260

HIGHLANDS COUNTY — CitraPac, a maker of frozen fruit snacks, plans to open a 42,000-sq.-ft. facility at Sebring Regional Airport in May and create 240 jobs.

Office Vacancy

St. Petersburg's central business district had an office vacancy rate of about 7% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Colliers International Tampa Bay. That was the lowest vacancy rate of any major submarket in the area.

Key Hire

Tampa-based Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment, has hired James Nozar as CEO. Nozar previously oversaw multiple projects in Washington,D. C., for Maryland-based developer JBG Cos.

Living Space

Three apartment projects totaling nearly 1,000 units are under construction in downtown Tampa, and an additional 4,400 housing units are planned. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik says he'll incorporate 1,000 housing units into his mixed-use development in the Channel District.