Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Business

Bill Edwards buys prime downtown St. Petersburg block

ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Edwards strikes again. He's just bought an entire downtown city block with virtually unlimited development options for $12 million.

It's known as the Tropicana block because of the four-story, pink Tropicana office building at 25 Second St. N that sits at the north end of the property. The site has been owned by Miami investors since 2001. After moving the small businesses that occupied the building out in 2012, Tropicana Redevelopment has planned to raze the 41,000-square-foot, century-year-old structure to make way for a hotel with condos and retail.

Edwards, who appeared to pay cash for the project since no mortgage shows up in public records, declined to comment on his plans for the property. But it's safe to expect something big.

"The development potential there is very high. It has the most intense zoning in the city," said Dave Goodwin, St. Petersburg's planning and economic development director. The zoning allows for high density be it office, entertainment, residential, lodging, retail or a combination of any or all of these uses.

"It's the only block in the (downtown) core that's completely vacant and under one ownership. That makes it ripe for development," Goodwin said. "We're excited the project has been sold to a local entrepreneur and developer."

The fact that said developer has deep pockets and has invested an estimated $40 million in Sundial (formerly BayWalk) two blocks away enhances the possibilities even more.

Apartments and condo towers are going up steadily these days and the optimistic downtown market is yet to be saturated so those uses are certainly possible. But Edwards has also had a yearning for a top notch hotel since plans to build 5-star luxury suites at his Club at Treasure Island fell through last year.

The Tropicana block was one option last year when the city negotiated with Jabil Circuit about possibly moving its headquarters and more than 1,000 employees from the Gateway area to downtown. Another possibility is a four-block area just east of Tropicana Field.

Former owners Tropicana Redevelopment offered to build a high-rise office building on the land and lease it to Jabil but the deal was never consummated.

Jabil, a Fortune 500 company currently spread out over several buildings, has not decided on any relocation.

"(The purchase) doesn't rule Jabil out," said Goodwin. "Jabil hasn't made a decision. I do not know what interest Jabil still has in that property."

Times photographer Scott Keeler, researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or [email protected]

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