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Luxury condo project's pricing strategy helps it emerge from bankruptcy

TAMPA — A bankrupt Channelside condominium project is nearly sold out after owners chopped prices almost in half.

More than 100 luxury condos at The Towers of Channelside have sold since the price cuts a year ago, and moving trucks have become as familiar a sight as the cruise ships docked across the street.

Marvin Meeks, an agent with Urban Living TampaBay, a boutique real estate company, has represented more than 10 buyers since the price cut. He cites that and the condo's location at 1211 E Cumberland Ave., with priceless views of Tampa Bay, as the biggest draws.

"It brought in a lot of people who couldn't afford that lifestyle," Meeks said. "It's been a desired property for some time. It's the only high rise in the area with that view."

In 2008, the luxury tower project seemed destined to fail after the developer filed bankruptcy and lenders seized the buildings.

A court-appointed receiver selected St. Petersburg's JMC Realty Inc. to sell the remaining 136 units last year.

JMC's Cheryl McCormick Brown and Steve McAuliffe urged the project's current owners — four banks and a hedge fund — to slash prices. The owners agreed to an across the board 45 percent price cut; they took it a step further and paid homeowner association fees for vacant units so new buyers weren't saddled with the costs.

McAuliffe and Brown have exceeded the owners' goal of selling eight condos a month.

The pricing strategy turned units originally listed at more than $305,000 into relative bargains at $168,000; a "grand penthouse'' unit dropped from about $1.6 million to $899,000.

Now, only 29 of 257 units remain in the two 28-story buildings, including five of the eight grand penthouses.

Prices for the remaining units will not go lower, Brown said.

"There is no room for negotiation, she said. "We're reaching the right people."

The sales success means that The Towers of Channelside is emerging from bankruptcy and will be turned over to the homeowners association.

Deep prices cuts have been the key to selling everything from suburban homes to waterfront condos across the bay area. The owners of Signature Place and 400 Beach, luxury towers on Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg, whacked prices last year in order to sell the remaining units.

"We needed to bring it down to pre-bubble prices," McAuliffe about the Towers' current prices.

So, who is buying these condos? People with a lot of cash or the means to secure loans.

The owners were serious about selling the units and offered financing, McAuliffe said.

Although the buildings aren't completely full, Brown said restaurants and retail stores near the Port of Tampa are faring better since people are moving into the area. She predicts continued growth.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markapuente.

Luxury condo project's pricing strategy helps it emerge from bankruptcy 03/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 10:17pm]
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