Make us your home page
Instagram

Mission accomplished at Signature Place condo, developer Cantor eyes new Rays stadium

Joel Cantor, 46, developer of St. Petersburg’s Signature Place, sits in the lobby of the downtown condo building. Cantor sold out the 244-unit tower while other high-end buildings in Tampa’s Channelside and Clearwater remain unfilled.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Joel Cantor, 46, developer of St. Petersburg’s Signature Place, sits in the lobby of the downtown condo building. Cantor sold out the 244-unit tower while other high-end buildings in Tampa’s Channelside and Clearwater remain unfilled.

Developer Joel Cantor is hunting for new challenges after the marathon of selling out all 244 units of the iconic, sail-shaped Signature Place tower that has transformed St. Petersburg's waterfront skyline.

This is a big-picture guy gunning for bigger venues, a force of nature, a "Can Do" Cantor who, after a rough recession, chalks up a victory at Signature Place. Now he's calling on St. Petersburg to be bold in its fight for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and to act now, while the team is hot.

Cantor, 46, wants to help. After an interview Monday, Cantor said he got in touch with the global firm Populous, which designed the new Yankee Stadium. He's set to meet with them in Tampa Bay next week to discuss designs and locations for the Rays.

"Nothing happens unless someone makes it happen," Cantor said. His strategy? Pick a designer. Choose two sites to play off each other so either doesn't charge too much. Work out financing (municipal bond interest rates are so low it makes financing almost free, he said). Start building.

"St. Pete must take charge to keep the team," he said.

And I thought Cantor was going to talk about Signature Place. Silly me.

It's kind of refreshing to hear such go-for-the-gusto talk amid these glum economic times. But there was a time, many months and lawsuits ago, when Cantor's chances of selling so many empty Signature Place condos seemed dim. The 36-story building became a symbol of big Florida dreams smacked by a crushing real estate collapse.

The saga of Signature Place, from its inception in 2005 to its selling out late last month, is an economic soap opera. It stars a go-for-broke Cantor, bold architects, big-scale builders, a bevy of nervous bank lenders, lawyers galore and buyers first wowed by the condo tower's pre-recession cachet, then angered by unit prices that soon felt sky high in a fast-falling real estate market.

No matter. Cantor bulled his way to the finish line. He schmoozed with his reluctant Midwest bankers backing the project. He calmed the wait-a-minute real estate lawyers. Along the way, he filled a huge condo tower in a regional market where many other high-end condos in downtown St. Petersburg, in Tampa's Channelside and in Clearwater still tread water.

Cantor even claims a profit despite the big price reductions he was forced to offer. He first knocked 33 percent off the initial prices at Signature Place to keep most of his condo buyers from feeling like they were getting fleeced. Later, he had to auction the tower's 84 remaining units. Sixty-two sold and the remainder were bought last month.

"I had to sacrifice 75 percent of my profit to make the project a winner," Cantor said. "Tons of folks told me that I am wasting my time, that this could not be done and that this building is too nice for St. Pete. I love hearing this. I always tell myself: 'Why not you? You can do it.' "

In the end, fully sold, Signature Place boasts 115 units of full-time residents and 35 rental units with the remainder occupied by seasonal owners from places like Canada, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Cantor speaks often about the rewards of overcoming challenges and pain. "Of course," he said, "when you make it through the ring of fire and make money, it's all the sweeter. That building is standing there and will be for at least 100 more years."

Signature Place units initially averaging about $700,000 ended up priced about $460,000. That, Cantor said, is one reason Signature Place sold out while other nearby luxury condos like Ovation, which boasts just over 40 units averaging more than $1 million, remain so slow to fill.

As Cantor tells it, if he had waited for every legal document to be signed, every detail to be ironed out, every banker to be appeased, Signature Place would not exist today.

Cantor's reputation for delivering Signature Place did not go unnoticed. He's now in demand as a turnaround consultant for condo projects in Las Vegas and the Caribbean struggling with the recession, uneasy lenders and unhappy condo buyers.

It's the developer's game that energizes Cantor as much as any finished project. If it seems a leap to go from developer of Signature Place to catalyst for a new Rays stadium, Cantor obviously does not seem bothered by the difference.

He'll meet with the architect, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg. Cantor said he would own a small part of the stadium and maybe the team (if they want a partner) and build out the project.

"You've got to go forward," he said. "Watch this unfold. It should be lots of fun."

Indeed. Play ball.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Mission accomplished at Signature Place condo, developer Cantor eyes new Rays stadium 10/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:21am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]