A partner in Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's stalled quest to take over Channelside Bay Plaza will break ground today on his firm's newest pursuit: a $36 million apartment complex in an old industrial stretch of North Hyde Park.
Crews will begin work soon on NoHo Flats, a campus of more than 300 apartments built a few blocks north of Kennedy Boulevard, said Anthony Everett, director of the Central Florida region for development firm Pollack Shores Real Estate Group.
The eight apartment buildings at 405 N Rome Ave. will rise up to four stories, site plans show, with fire pits, a swimming pool and a large "graffiti wall."
The apartments, Everett said, will cater in particular to young professionals, drawn in by downtown's offices, the University of Tampa campus or the nightlife on S Howard Avenue.
Construction will take 15 months, Everett said, though the first units could open next fall. One-bedroom apartments would start at about $900 a month, with three-bedrooms renting up to about $1,600 a month.
The west Tampa land, home to an old warehouse industrial district, was once a key parcel for the West End project, a proposed $100 million complex of apartments, townhomes, condos and storefronts. But Morin Development Group's project disintegrated during the recession, Everett said, and Pollack Shores bought 8 acres of the land in August for $4.8 million. Across the street stands a West End remnant: the Vintage Lofts at West End, a complex of luxury apartments.
Pollack Shores has developed more than 1,300 apartments in Tampa Bay, in complexes including Bay Isle Key in St. Petersburg and Five West and Audubon Village in Tampa.
In March, the firm won approval from Largo commissioners to build another 300 apartments on the former site of the Bay Area Outlet Mall.
Apartment buildings remain a lucrative niche for local developers and investors, according to commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield. Average rents in Tampa Bay have grown to $859 a month, midyear data shows, and vacancy rates have slid to about 6 percent.
Analysts credit the housing bust, which has prompted former homeowners burnt by foreclosures or short sales to look for cheaper, easier, less risky ways to live.
"There's a lot of people who had a bad experience with homes, and who like the idea of renting," said Luis Elorza, the senior director of the multifamily advisory group at Cushman & Wakefield. With apartments, "everything that gets built is absorbed quickly, and the demand is very strong."
For developers looking for a strong investment, apartments represent perhaps one of the steadiest bets. In a Wells Fargo housing report released earlier this month, analysts said apartments' "exceptionally strong" demand showed "few signs of letting up."
Everett, the son of Tampa real estate legend Toni Everett, said his apartment project is counting on that demand continuing.
"We're not doing the same number of jobs we usually do," Everett said, "but as our economy improves, and we see more job growth and more migration to the area, we'll be able to meet a demand that's already there, and the demand that will grow in the future."