CLEARWATER — For two years, the Water's Edge condominium tower has sat virtually empty in downtown Clearwater like some kind of 25-story monument to bad timing.
The luxury high-rise opened in 2008 just after the Tampa Bay condo market collapsed. A measly 10 out of its 153 units sold. The company that built it went bankrupt.
Now the creamy white skyscraper has been sold, and its new owners announced Friday that they're preparing to slash unit prices in half.
That's in a building where the average condo was once priced at $750,000 and penthouses once went for $1.7 million.
Real estate manager Grant Wood, who will oversee sales for the new owners, said they're "still refining" the prices, but the condo tower's website says they'll be "up to 50 percent off."
The condos have been off the market for a while as the building at Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue changed hands a couple of times. The units go back on sale July 30.
The stakes go beyond the walls of Water's Edge. City officials are counting on it and another mostly vacant high-rise, Station Square, to eventually fill up and help bring life to Clearwater's sleepy downtown.
Perched atop a limestone bluff next to City Hall, Water's Edge is downtown's tallest building.
Opus South Corp. completed it in 2008, filed for bankruptcy in spring 2009 and ceded the tower to Wachovia Bank at a foreclosure auction last fall. Wachovia, which held an $82 million mortgage on the building, successfully bid $30.6 million for the property.
A California investment company, Concierge Asset Management, bought the tower from Wachovia and closed on the deal Thursday night. The sale price wasn't disclosed, although records filed with the Pinellas County Clerk of Court say that Concierge is taking out a $14.2 million mortgage on the building.
The company was founded by a bargain-hunting tycoon, Maxwell Drever, who has built a reputation for seeking out troubled properties with good prospects for recovery.
Concierge spokesman Chris Barnett called Drever "an opportunistic investor."
"This is a beautiful building," Barnett said. "They're thrilled to have this in their portfolio."
Wood said the sales pitch for the condos will target local empty-nesters as well as second-home buyers from out of state. "It's an alternative for the value buyer who wants to be close to the beach but doesn't want to pay that price," he said.
There's one other sales strategy. Because so few of the units are occupied, the new owners are putting up 15 months' worth of condo association dues so condo buyers won't be saddled with the cost of maintaining the entire building.
"That's one of the questions that comes up," Wood said. "This provides a peace of mind for purchasers."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.