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New Pierhouse complex stokes talk of 'destiny' while evoking Tampa's grittier past

TAMPA

Decades ago, when this industrial shoreline was mostly wharves and warehouses, the longshoremen here probably never guessed they'd be cited as inspiration for luxury apartments.

Yet standing Thursday among the rusted-steel artwork of Pierhouse, the Channel District's newest rental complex, developer Arturo Peña is quick to share credit for this posh compound's stylized grit.

"We built this with a nod to Tampa's working waterfront," said Peña, a vice president of Miami mega-developer Related Group. "This is our homage to its edgy, industrial side."

But enough with the history lesson. What Tampa boosters really want you to take from Pierhouse's new unveiling is that it's a coup for the city's future: attracting young professionals, well-paying jobs and a reputation that the industrial barrens here are long gone.

"There's a sense of hope. There's a sense of optimism. There, most importantly, is a sense of destiny about what this city is going to be," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "We're not asking anyone's permission anymore. We're moving ahead full throttle. We do not have any brakes on this car."

It's lofty praise for a project that is only one of a half-dozen Tampa rental projects, including two luxury high-rises under development in the waterfront Channel District east of downtown.

But after years of comatose building, and with an office-heavy downtown still needled for falling asleep at workdays' end, boosters are happy to laud anything they can get.

The 356 apartments of Pierhouse, at 120 S Meridian Ave., are spread out over a quartet of four-story mid-rises, which connect via landscaped courtyards. Renters have leased more than a third of the apartments, including their one-bedroom Aruba units with 9-foot ceilings, which cost about $1,420 a month. At 1,500 square foot, their eight largest top-floor units, called the Trinidad, rent for about $2,500 a month.

Though advertised for its "industrial flair," the porcelain-white walls and rustic-wood designs hew closer to South Florida than skid row. There is a Zen garden, a massage parlor and free weekly fitness boot camps and vinyasa flow yoga.

Started when condo development dried up during the bust, Pierhouse will become one of the developer's first apartment complexes, a sign of confidence that Tampa's rental market will continue to boom.

Related's billionaire chairman and chief executive, Jorge Perez, a commercial development legend who helped craft Miami's condo-canyon skyline, was on hand for Thursday's ribbon-cutting.

Once called by Time magazine "the Donald Trump of the tropics," Perez perhaps did not want to be out-triumphed by the mayor. So, to boosters' delight, he announced that he would love to build in Tampa even more.

"It's not about the concrete. It's about what it means," Perez said. "Every time it comes out like this, it's pride. It's almost like a child is born."

Drew Harwell can be reached at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

New Pierhouse complex stokes talk of 'destiny' while evoking Tampa's grittier past 09/12/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:23pm]
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