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Occupancy is looking up at the Sage condo tower

Arnold Held, left, Keith Ford and Kermit Anderson work on the sundial project in advance of Saturday’s Waterfront Park Centennial event.

SANDRA J. GADSDEN | Times

Arnold Held, left, Keith Ford and Kermit Anderson work on the sundial project in advance of Saturday’s Waterfront Park Centennial event.

When it opened in 2007, the Sage was part of the boom in downtown development that touted urban living. But when the housing market crashed, it joined several other mostly empty condominium towers in St. Petersburg that loomed darkly in the night sky.

A one- or two-light night was not that unusual when looking up at some of the waterfront towers.

As recently as April, the $30 million, 12-story condominium at the corner of Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue S had sold barely more than a quarter of its units.

But things quickly changed after Southwest Properties Ltd., a Nova Scotia company that specializes in the "repositioning of existing properties," bought the remaining 75 units at the Sage on April 1 and began leasing them.

Now the tower is "at 70 percent occupancy," said Trina Sammann, assistant property manager.

Lease rates at the U-shaped building range from $1,219 to $2,400 per month for the mainly two-bedroom units.

With Fusion at 1560 Central Ave. near completion and Urban Style Flats in the former Graham-Rogall public housing complex recently hosting an open house, the downtown core suddenly has a bevy of trendy rental apartments.

Is the Sage worried about the competition?

"The thought in the industry is that Fusion would be the Sage's competition," said Sammann, "But we view our property differently.

"The difference is these are still condos. We're on a time frame (calling for) a rent-to-own option" in five years when the housing market rebounds.

"Condos are meant to sell, so the finishes are different, the quality is different."

How have the homeowners at the Sage received the new leasing structure at the complex?

"There are a lot of owners who are happy with us being here because it adds life to the building," said Sammann, adding that Southwest is paying the homeowners association fees of the renters.

Most of the new tenants are young professionals, she said, but there are also couples who are consolidating — former homeowners who no longer want to deal with maintenance.

• • •

Take a stroll along North Shore Drive near 12th Avenue NE and you'll see that the restoration of a 1930s sundial is taking shape. City workers have begun pouring cement on the outer ring, and the project's design is visible from the stakes in the ground.

The city of St. Petersburg crew has been working long days to have the project complete in time for a big bash Saturday.

That's when the city will celebrate the Waterfront Park Centennial with a daylong party stretching from North Shore Park, 901 North Shore Drive NE, to Albert Whitted Park, 107 Eighth Ave. SE. Bayshore Drive will be closed to traffic but open for bikes and pedestrians.

On Thursday, the project's first phase was near completion. The city's Kermit Anderson said the crew has been working in the corridor to complete both the city trail and the sundial project. There are two more phases to be completed, but they expect to be finished midweek.

Come Saturday, the stages — nine of them — will be set for one of the largest parties in the city's history.

I suggest wearing comfortable shoes to get your stroll on.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874.

Occupancy is looking up at the Sage condo tower 10/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 7:18pm]

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