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Homes to squeeze out weeds

It's easy to overlook the 8 acres nestled behind the Somerset Professional Park and the Palma Vista condominium complex along Amberly Drive.

Utility pipes poke out of a field blanketed by discarded soda bottles and dandelions. Asphalt roads meander through the weeds.

But the days of obscurity for this property appear to be numbered. In August, a Tampa company plans to begin construction of a $20-million townhouse complex on this, the last bit of undeveloped real estate in the first phase of the Tampa Palms.

Bayfair Properties wants to build 80 townhomes priced between $200,000 and $300,000. Vice president David Seidenberg said he aims to draw empty-nesters and young professionals to the homes.

"What we have found demographically is that a lot of folks are moving out of their homes," Seidenberg said. "But they prefer a larger home than what is now on the market in New Tampa."

The townhomes would be between 2,000 square feet and 2,250 square feet, which is larger than some single-family homes in other New Tampa communities such as Arbor Greene, Cory Lake Isles and Heritage Isles. The Mediterranean-style homes will have barrel-tile roofs, ground floor master suites and two-car garages.

They will share a gate that opens by remote control with the existing Palma Vista condominiums. The condo complex's clubhouse will be remodeled into a fitness center, and a new clubhouse will be built for both complexes to use. Next to the clubhouse will be two swimming pools: one for families and the other for adults.

Seidenberg says he has built homes that have sold for $2-million.

"We do high-end single-family homes," he said. "That should let people in New Tampa know that we have an eye for detail."

This would be the second townhouse project in Tampa Palms. Developer Warren Kinsler is building 131 townhomes inside Tampa Palms Area 3. Those homes, which cost between $130,000 and $160,000, have nearly sold out, Kinsler said.

There's plenty of interest in the Bayfair townhomes, said Ryan Dougherty, sales consultant with Bayfair Properties.

Seven already have sold, and 26 potential buyers have put down deposits of $1,000 to reserve their homes before a sales meeting later this month. New townhome owners will pay $2,400 a year in maintenance and association fees, Seidenberg said.

The townhouse niche in New Tampa is strong, said analyst Michael Slater, president and owner of Triad Research & Consulting Inc., because there's still high demand.

"The developers have been very successful based on the fact that there is a deep demand pool of people seeking homeownership for that area," Slater said. "And with townhomes, you attract people wanting a lower maintenance lifestyle."

It's also a multifamily product that doesn't draw the outrage that apartments or rental properties generate.

When Arbor Greene homeowners learned about the rented townhomes planned for their community, some canvassed the neighborhood with fliers protesting the homes. But the Bayfair homes, which will be sold not rented, haven't drawn any criticism, said Susan Johnson, a land development coordinator with the city.

_ Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 269-5312 or