ST. PETERSBURG — In April, Bill Edwards bought the Tropicana block for $12 million, sparking speculation about what the mogul planned for the rare block of nearly vacant land in the heart of downtown with almost unlimited potential.
On Wednesday, he answered that question with an announcement that he was selling it to the Kolter Group, a Palm Beach County investment firm that plans to build a hotel and condos in two towers. The mixed-use project would include ground-floor retail.
The block is bordered by Central and First Avenue N and First and Second streets.
Though many details remain sketchy, a downtown hotel is a definite boon for the city, said Mayor Rick Kriseman.
"We've been in need of more hotel rooms for a long time. Having a new hotel is a good thing for the city. And the number of people who want to live downtown is also increasing, so more options for them is good news," Kriseman said. "It fills in a big hole that we've had."
In April, city economic planners said the development potential was staggering.
"The zoning allows for high density, be it office, entertainment, residential, lodging, retail or a combination of any or all of these uses," said Dave Goodwin, director of planning and economic development.
Kolter will close on the deal next month. A sale price and other details about the project likely won't be released before then, said Anne Sullivan, a Kolter spokeswoman.
"We searched for someone to develop the property in a way befitting the city that St. Petersburg has become," Edwards said in a statement. "There is a clear demand for more condominiums and a new quality hotel downtown. I am confident the Kolter Group will build something very special for the city."
The project is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2015 and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017.
"We love St. Petersburg," Bobby Julien, CEO of the Kolter Group, said in a statement. "The city's downtown is emerging as one of the nation's special urban centers, and we are excited to be a part of its future."
Kolter has been active in Florida residential development for nearly two decades, with $10 billion in real estate transactions since 1993. The company is finishing work at Water Club Snell Isle, a nine-story, 84-unit condo tower, along with 11 two-story townhomes.
The firm also owns and operates more than 600 hotel rooms in the state, including Hyatt Place hotels in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, and a Hilton Garden Inn in Palm Beach Gardens. The group is building a Westin hotel in Sarasota.
Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Stephen Nohlgren and Katherine Snow Smith contributed to this report. Charlie Frago can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow on Twitter @CharlieFrago.