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Venture

Robert Trigaux

Signature Place: When luxury gets repriced

12

April

Signatureplacemelissalyttle Talk about a discount! Cantor Development, developer of the landmark condo/mixed-used Signature Place project in downtown St. Petersburg, late last week e-mailed buyers under contract that it was reducing the price of all its units by a whopping 25 percent. On a $700,000 condo, an average contract price for a Signature Place unit, that's $175,000 off. Here's a more in-depth column I wrote about what happened in the St. Petersburg Times.

Here are three of St. Pete Times Melissa Lyttle's photos, taken Friday, of Signature Place. You know which project I'm talking about. The tall, thin one near Al Lang Field, the one a hair's breadth shorter than the nearby Bank of America tower. The one that, far more than any other condo in downtown's swanky waterfront row, stops locals and visitors alike to gawk and wonder. The one, for those lucky enough to get the tour, with about a zillion sweeping water views. The one that ranks among the most interesting and sophisticated residential projects ever to rise in the Tampa Bay area.

Signatureplacelyttle2B2 Well, even that one just got deep discounted.

Consider this unit I toured Friday, with two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in 1,630 square feet, and views of the elevated pool area, partial waterfront views and an angle on the, admittedly cool, 6-story black granite waterfall built by California specialists (see photo below) that graces the south side of Signature Place. Unit price: $689,000. After the 25 percent discount: $516,750.

There's been a behind-the-scenes battle brewing by some buyers, who committed to Signature Place condo units at pre-recession prices, and Cantor Development that's been anxious to preserve its profit margins. That tension eased, at least a bit for now, by Cantor's decision to send an e-mail blast to buyers saying he's cutting prices by one quarter. Says Joel Cantor, developer and head of Cantor Development and the affiliated Gulf Atlantic Real Estate firm: "I recognized almost a year ago that the economy was running into trouble."

Signatureplace6storywaterfalllyttle He describes how Fifth Third Bank and other lenders financing the condo project were "shocked" when he suggested discounting Signature units by 25 percent.

 He adds: "After 156 telephone calls, 32 letters, loads of e-mails and 17 meetings, the banks, to their credit, finally relented and agreed to my request."  That means both the banks and Cantor's development firm will absorb the financial hit of the big discount.

Joelcantor2006sigplacemodelborchuck Cantor (shown in happier times in this 2006 St. Pete Times photo by James Borchuck with a model of Signature Place) says Signature Place cost $170 million to build. And he's now telling its prospective residents: "You are now paying significantly less than what it cost to build the project."

 He adds this personal appeal: "I could easily have made it cheaper and saved money. The pool alone cost $475,000 and I could have easily cut the cost. But that is not the kind of person I am. I always go the distance and do things right. I am more concerned about the product and your satisfaction than I am about my own pocket. That's why after 20 years in this business I have had few problems and many satisfied customers."

Then he brings in the closer: "Maybe that is one of the reasons why I am one of the only developers still in business."

It's a fascinating business tale whose ending is still unclear. And Signature Place, though caught in the pain of a deep recession, remains a fascinating architectural addition to the St. Petersburg waterfront skyline.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 12:24pm]

    

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