CLEARWATER — On a large site overlooking Tampa Bay that once housed one of Clearwater's best-known retirement communities, hundreds of apartments in a parklike setting fronting a private beach will open for business later this year, developers say.
Bayview Gardens, opened by a Congregational church in 1965, was once home to hundreds of seniors before financial problems in 2012 forced its Gainesville owner to shutter the six-story high-rise off Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and the one-story apartment homes that surrounded it.
Many of the residents were upset by having to move out on short notice and speculated at the time about what would come next on the property just east of Clearwater Mall.
The future looks to be 426 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rents will range from the upper $800s to $1,600 a month, depending on size and location.
"We are building a resort setting that will (have) water views and a parklike setting because of the hundreds of trees we are protecting," wrote Anthony M. Everett, Central Florida director for Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, in an email.
The project, approved last year by the city, has a 15-month construction schedule and a $60 million price tag, Everett said.
Apartment construction has picked up recently in Tampa Bay's third-largest city. The recession squelched most proposed projects that had been in the pipeline. Before that, thousands of apartments in Tampa Bay were converted to condominiums.
"The Tampa Bay area generally has demand for about 7,000 new rental units annually, but there was almost no new supply built since 2006. Developers have seen the lack of new apartment construction and have reacted to try to fill that demand," Everett said.
While there have been concerns that adding hundreds of new residents to the Gulf-to-Bay corridor would lead to more congestion, a traffic study showed the complex would not substantially worsen traffic. The complex will have two entries: one on Gulf-to-Bay at Cross Boulevard and the other off Mall Perimeter Road.
Another apartment project with about 250 units is under construction as part of a large mixed-use development at the intersection of Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher Road. And on Tuesday, the Community Development Board approved a 152-unit senior apartment complex in the Old Bay neighborhood north of downtown, near the former North Ward school.
City Manager Bill Horne said new apartment construction fits into the city's strategic plan.
"We've always championed that. It addresses the needs of a younger workforce that may not be in the position to buy a home," he said.
Charlie Frago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.