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Even our dirt isn't cheap

Everyone knows South Tampa's housing market is hot.

Just how hot? Burn your tongue on this:

Several condos at One Bayshore under construction on Platt Street have already sold for a second time. And the place is still more than a year away from opening.

Owners who bought the units during the preconstruction offering are selling them for $50,000 to $60,000 profit, said Jim Walters, a real estate agent for Smith & Associates in charge of the sales.

SOME FOR EVEN MORE. One owner is trying to make $150,000 on his place, one of eight coveted corner units with a circular living room.

He'll probably get it.

Amazing.

Developers aren't so surprised. More people want condo living in an urban atmosphere, they say. They're tired of commuting to the burbs and cutting the grass. They want amenities of a city and views of the skyline.

That hasn't always been the case. For years, developers shunned downtown projects as too risky. Then came Channelside and the streetcar. And with it, people's new fascination with city life, or Tampa's small equivalent.

SUDDENLY, IT'S THE in thing to be an urban pioneer. At least the kind with a secured parking garage and quiet elevators.

The Towers of Channelside appear to be off to a fast start after the City Council recently approved their contested plan to build two 30-story towers on the Fogarty site in the Channel District.

Developers intend to close on the property next week and open an on-site sales center by late March. So far, they have about 70 names on their pre-sale list and calls continue to come in daily, said Mike McGuinness, one of three partners involved in the project.

As with most high-rise projects, the developers need to sell half of the 273 units to get financing. As incentives, they offer bargain prices. After all, people are buying based on drawings and have to wait a long time to move in.

It will take a $5,000 refundable deposit to reserve a spot and a sizable down payment at contract-signing time. Units will start at $275,000 to $325,000 and creep up $10 a square foot as they sell, McGuinness said.

The same story goes for the nearby 89-unit Victory Lofts. Two-bedroom units that developers sold for $300,000 in the beginning are now going for $350,000, said Nick Pavonetti, a director with Beck, the developer.

He plans to raise the price every 45 days until the last unit is sold. Four penthouses went in the past month, leaving 19 units available.

"People who bought initially were real risk-takers," he said. "Now people see the construction and they want to hop on board."

The Bellamy high-rise on Bayshore Boulevard is seeing similar success. At an invitation-only, pre-sales event a few weeks ago, developer JMC Communities got reservations for 36 of 37 available units.

The starting prices: a whopping $650,000.

"It reaffirms for us the depth of the market that we thought was there," said Steve McAuliffe, vice president of sales and marketing for JMC. "We've been watching Bayshore for a long time and we were waiting for the right time."

It seems to have arrived.

Brooks Byrd pre-sold more than half the units in his GrandView condo high-rise on Harbour Island and has just one left for $1.75-million.

And right now three owners have their units on the market, he said, including one that's under contract for $535,000.

The original pre-sale price: $280,000.

Ka-ching.

Byrd currently has his sights set on the Downtown Channelside project across the water in the Channel District. Like the Towers of Channelside, it calls for two 30-story towers, plus a retail complex with a grocery store.

Channel District neighbors have strongly opposed the project, which still requires multiple governmental approvals.

In the meantime, Byrd plans to start taking reservations and deposits at the end of March. He seems convinced the project will happen.

If the market stays hot, it very well may.

_ Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurstonsptimes.com.

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