$117 million apartment tower and hotel planned for downtown St. Petersburg

The site was once planned for the luxurious Grand Bohemian hotel but has sat vacant for years.
Published July 18
Updated July 18

ST. PETERSBURG — A hotel and 36-story apartment tower could one day rise on a long-vacant lot in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.

Greystar Real Estate Partners has submitted plans for a $117-million project called Ascent St. Petersburg at First Avenue N and Second Street next to Duke Energy's Florida headquarters and across from Jannus Live. The tower would have 354 rental units and sit next to a 172-room hotel. Space for offices, stores and possibly a restaurant would be included.

Based in Charleston, S.C., Greystar is the nation's largest apartment manager and developer. Its scores of projects include the 33-story Ascent Uptown in Charlotte, N.C. and the 22-story Ascent Midtown in Atlanta.

Except for the hotel, Greystar's plans are similar to those for an apartment tower proposed by developer David Mack several years ago. His company still owns the land, records show, and its name appears on the application. Neither he nor Greystar returnede calls for comment.

Elizabeth Abernethy, St. Petersburg's director of planning and development services, said Thursday that the project is being processed as a "streamline'' case, meaning city staffers will approve the site plan if no appeals are filed before the July 29th deadline

READ MORE: 17 projects, $500 million set to transform St. Pete’s skyline

Greystar's involvement indicates that change might finally be coming to what has been one of the most valuable but star-crossed pieces of land in downtown St. Petersburg.

In 2004, the city sold the land for $3.3 million to Richard Kessler, who had helped found the Days Inn chain before moving into the boutique hotel business. He revealed plans for a 28-story hotel, the Grand Bohemian, that would be "the first true luxury hotel in Tampa-St. Petersburg'' with amenities like an art gallery and full-service spa. But as the economy slumped Kessler repeatedly put off construction. In 2013, the city agreed he could sell the land to an Atlanta developer.

That deal also fell through and in 2015, Mack and his equity partners bought the land for $8.75 million. He announced plans that year for a 35-story, 306-unit tower but the site remained a weedy, empty eyesore in the midst of a booming downtown. In recent days, though, it has been tidied up, suggesting that something might finally be happening there.

READ MORE: REAL ESTATE Two vacant lots in the ‘heart’ of St. Petersburg. Why does one look so much nicer?

Greystar's plans calls for four levels of parking above the ground floor, lined by hotel guest rooms along Second Street N. The sixth-level podium would have a deck with amenities including a pool and fitness center. At 357 feet, the apartment tower would be among the taller buildings in St. Petersburg.

The plans do not say whether the hotel would be a branded property. A Hyatt Place hotel opened in late 2017 a block to the east, and a New York developer plans a Marriott-managed hotel next to a proposed condo tower a few blocks to the west.

READ MORE: New York developer scaling back height of downtown St. Pete condo tower

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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