TAMPA — The north end of downtown near Perry Harvey Sr. Park hasn't seen a lot of purely private-sector development in years, but to Brian Ray, the area seems poised for a change.
Two blocks away, big new apartment buildings are going up at Encore Tampa — a massive urban redevelopment project being coordinated by the Tampa Housing Authority and the Bank of America Community Development Corp.
One block away, City Hall is preparing to launch a $6 million transformation of Perry Harvey Park.
So Ray — an Orlando-based architect, developer and real estate investor — is looking to develop a triangle of property on N Jefferson Street and N Orange Avenue, just across the street from Perry Harvey Park and its Bro Bowl skateboard park.
Ray's firm has developed conceptual drawings and talked with various city departments about one of three projects he thinks could go on the site:
• A 10-story hotel with 114 guest rooms.
• A four-story commercial building.
• 27 apartments or condominiums built in four stories.
Ray's company, Ray Design Development, has worked on projects in Colorado, Tennessee and Orlando. It looks to acquire under-used or financially distressed properties it can sell, develop, fix up and flip or fix and hold.
Over the summer, Ray's company paid a mere $18,500 for the first piece of the triangle, but he said he's got several neighboring parcels under contract for "substantially more than what I paid."
"I think that's reflective of the change that's going on in the neighborhood" with the improvements coming to Perry Harvey Park and Encore, he said. He is marketing the assembled site, which covers 21,072 square feet, for $1.25 million.
City rules allow a building up to 120 feet tall on the site, Ray said, though another big factor is parking. Depending on what's built, Ray thinks he can get 27 to 34 spaces on the site and is talking to the city and the Florida Department of Transportation about using neighboring properties for additional parking.
City economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh said Ray's site has been under contract several times before.
"I think the issue is that it's a little on the small side," he said. He's said he doesn't see it as a traditional office site and noted that Encore has a pad of its own that could be built as a hotel.
Over the next couple of years, as Encore is built out, becomes fully leased and gains a stable base of residents, McDonaugh would expect prospects to improve for the kind of private development a growing neighborhood needs: a grocery store, a drug store, a convenience store, a bank branch or a dry cleaner.
A good thing, he said, is the quality of construction going into Encore's buildings and infrastructure. When finished, the 28-acre Encore is expected to include 794 mixed-income apartments, 300 condominiums or other privately owned units sold at market rates, 268,000 square feet of commercial development, a museum and school. The value of the new construction could approach $425 million.
"I think that all of that land around there is generally going to become more valuable," McDonaugh said. "Money follows money in real estate."