Developers of Element, the still-incomplete 35-story downtown Tampa condominium tower, are considering converting much of the building into apartments until the housing market improves.
A shortage of qualified buyers forced the hand of Novare-intown Tampa Development LLC, whose completion of the neighboring SkyPoint condo tower was among the few success stories in the imploding urban condo market.
Novare is considering renting out units, which range from 691 to 3,445 square feet, and using the income to help cover its debts until the sales climate improves in a couple of years.
Christine Burdick, head of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, said the move makes sense: Better a vibrant apartment building than a half-empty condo tower. The partnership has banked on new downtown dwellers to stoke the city's restaurant and arts scene.
"There are a lot of people not eligible for mortgages and there's a lot more renters," Burdick said. "I think having people living downtown and contributing to its vibrancy is one of the objectives.
Lauded as a bold follow up to SkyPoint, Element broke ground in February 2007. Work has advanced to the point that Novare expects to remove its tower crane this month from the construction site on North Franklin Street. Though the building is nearly topped out, interior work will stretch to the spring.
Sales prices for the estimated 395 units range from about $220,000 to nearly $1-million. That's proved to be too rich in a condo market where foreclosures and bankruptcies are rife.
Three prominent condo tower bankruptcies within sight of Element are Trump Tower Tampa, The Place at Channelside and The Towers of Channelside.