CLEARWATER— A Latvian-born Water's Edge penthouse condo resident made a splash last year when he bought retail space at the base of the tower. Now he's expanding his reach downtown, snapping up the 11-story Bank of America building on Cleveland Street.
Daniels Ikajevs, 32, didn't immediately return a call for comment on the $7.3 million purchase. But downtown boosters and city officials believe that local ownership of the landmark property at 600 Cleveland Street is good news for downtown.
Clearwater's City Council appears poised to strike a deal to help Ikajevs better market his new property.
"We're certainly hopeful that Ikajevs becomes more of a permanent owner, as opposed to a 'lease-up and sell' transitional owner and is more involved in the overall strategy for downtown," said Rod Irwin, assistant city manager for economic development.
Irwin said Ikajevs bought the building from a Texas bank that specializes in buying foreclosed properties and attracting enough tenants to make them attractive buys. Right now, the 145,000-square-foot office building is about 70 percent leased.
Ikajevs "seems to be interested in becoming a player in downtown development," said Irwin.
One hurdle was adequate parking. On Monday, the City Council advanced a plan to lease 78 spaces in the city-owned Garden Avenue garage across the street to Ikajevs for $2,500 a month. In exchange, the city will get after-hours and weekend access to about 50 surface lot spots owned by Ikajevs.
The final vote is scheduled for Thursday's council meeting.
Ikajevs' latest buy is just the tip of the iceberg for downtown, said Bill Sturtevant, chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership.
"We've got major, major investors who have taken a very strong interest in downtown. It's what we've all been waiting for," Sturtevant said.
As many as four other investors are looking at downtown parcels. They like what they see, especially the year-end opening of a refurbished Capitol Theatre, but want some answers on limited parking options, Sturtevant said. He declined to identify the other investors.
Possible new tenants for the Bank of America building include a "blend" of tech firms and support services for the tech industry, Irwin said.
Downtown planners and boosters hope to expand a tech sector that already employs several hundred workers. In June, the City Council picked a developer to build hundreds of high-end apartments and retail space in Prospect Lake, just east of downtown. They hope the development will help keep the young, highly-paid workers spending their leisure time and money in Clearwater instead of commuting to Tampa or St. Petersburg.
Earlier this year, Ikajevs bought 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space in Water's Edge next to City Hall, where he said he planned to open a gelato shop. The shop hasn't opened yet.
Ikajevs also bought five storefronts along the 500 block of Cleveland Street, the former home of Peter Gillham's Nutrition Center. He told the Tampa Bay Times at the time that he hoped to renovate and lease the storefronts in time for the Capitol Theatre's opening, now slated for December. They are still shuttered.
A native of Latvia, a Baltic nation formally controlled by the Soviet Union, Ikajevs has lived in the area for more than a dozen years. He told the Times in April that because he is foreign-born and interested in buying downtown property, people often assume that he is a Scientologist. Ikajevs said he doesn't belong to the church.
Charlie Frago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago