TAMPA — After a false start by a previous developer, Related Development of Miami broke ground Monday on a $55 million apartment complex in the Channel District.
Within 18 months, the project — known for now simply as the Channelside apartments — is expected to open with 356 units, two parking garages and 4,800 square feet of stores.
"This is one more indication that downtown is alive, it's well, it's vibrant, and there's a demand for residential living," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at the ground breaking ceremony, an event common during the real estate boom but rare recently.
The project is on the east side of Meridian Avenue, between Cumberland Avenue and Whiting Street, and will include an unusual amenity. In a narrow north-south strip where 11th Street used to run, the complex will have a small public park, an uncommon bit of green space in the Channel District.
"It's going to be a great connection between the waterfront and the central core of the Channel District," Related Development president and CEO Steve Patterson said. "It's not just for the residents who live here. It's for the entire neighborhood."
To the make the park possible, the city vacated part of 11th Street. The developer will create the park and dedicate it back to the city, but the complex will maintain the park, which will be about 60 feet wide by 400 feet long.
Neighbors from the Towers of Channelside condominiums welcomed the project, and not only because the park will give them a place to walk their dogs.
When 11th Street was open, it was a favorite parking spot for patrons of the nightclubs at Channelside Bay Plaza. Trouble was, when the bars closed and everyone returned to their cars, the noise was "pretty wild at 3 o'clock in the morning," said Tom Mulryan, 69, a resident of the Towers of Channelside.
But more important, residents say, is what the project can do for the Channel District.
"I think it'll be a tremendous improvement, because it will bring in a lot of retail that heretofore hasn't surfaced," Mulryan said.
Ultimately, residents hope the neighborhood's population will reach the critical mass necessary to attract a grocery store.
The history of the development goes back to 2006, when Sembler Investments announced plans for a project called Seaboard Square with a hotel, condominiums, townhomes, stores and offices. There was to be a 29-story tower flanked by two 25-story buildings.
But after financing for projects of that scale dried up, the property lay fallow behind a chain-link fence.
In December 2010, Related Development bought the 5.8 acres for $6.5 million. One of the reasons the company likes the project is that the Channel District is close to thousands of downtown jobs, and it aims to create a project that will appeal to young professionals.
Rents will start at about $1,200 a month for one-bedroom apartments, which will comprise 40 percent of the units. Studio apartments will account for 10 percent, two-bedroom apartments will make up 40 percent and the remaining 10 percent will consist of two-bedroom apartments with dens.
"We think long term this is going to a wonderful place to be," Patterson said, "so we're kind of celebrating not just a project, but a neighborhood."
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com, (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.