ST. PETERSBURG — From Tampa, tens of thousands of motorists a day pour across the Howard Frankland and Gandy bridges into Pinellas County’s Gateway area.
Sprawled over 30 square miles and home to thousands of jobs in manufacturing, retail and professional services, the area is both the main gateway to the county and its primary economic engine. Massive road and bridge improvements already underway will provide better connectivity to the rest of the Tampa Bay region while the Gateway Master Plan aims to create a "vibrant, livable area'' within the Gateway's own borders.
Driving around the Gateway, you might have noticed some big new projects. We decided to find out what they are and who’s behind them.
It doesn't have a name yet, but the eight-story building under construction on Ulmerton Road at Feather Sound "will be the finest hotel in St. Petersburg.''
That's according to Fred Bullard Jr., who is developing the 124-room boutique hotel expected to open this summer on the former site of Stormin' Norman's, a wildly popular 1980s night club.
The hotel will have a restaurant with a "casual but very nice and unusual menu;'' a rooftop bar with views of the bay and Tampa skyline; and another bar resembling Ralph Lauren's acclaimed Polo Bar in Manhattan.
Given its proximity to Tampa International Airport and companies like Raymond James, the hotel is geared to business travelers but also to "people who will come over here and spend time in luxurious surroundings,'' Bullard said. "We have a Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale, so we're familiar with four- and five-star hotels.''
Though independent, the Pinellas hotel will be part of Marriott’s reservation system. It will be managed by Mainsail Lodging and Mainsail, whose portfolio includes the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa and the Fenway Hotel in Dunedin.
Most people think of Carillon as an office park or ruled-out stadium site for the Tampa Bay Rays. But Carillon, which sits in the triangle formed by Ulmerton Road, Roosevelt Boulevard and I-275, is actually a thriving community that includes a supermarket, banks, a Baycare outpatient center and dozens of apartments and townhomes.
Adding to that residential mix will be 298 apartments by AG Spanos, a California-based builder of multi-family housing and master-planned communities. (Interesting fact: CEO Dean Spanos is chairman and president of the Los Angeles Chargers, the National Football League team owned by the Spanos family.)
As the Gateway continues its evolution into a true live-work-play area, the apartments with garage parking could appeal to the many young professionals working at Raymond James, Spectrum and other companies in Carillon. "There hasn’t been a lot of new (residential) stuff there. Most was built a long time ago,'' said Dimitri Economou, Spanos’ executive vice president. "People will be able to walk to the Publix that’s right there and if they work in other parts of Tampa Bay metro, it’s kind of close to Westshore, Rocky Point and the airport. It’s just a good location.''
3. More apartments
Like Carillon, the Gateway Centre has a prime location near three main roads — U.S. 19, Gandy Boulevard and I-275. The original tenants nearly 30 years ago included manufacturing giants Jabil and Lockheed Martin but today the Centre is getting more and more tenants of the residential kind.
The Epic with 224 units opened a few years ago and Allure at Gateway with 274 units is well under construction. Now site preparation is underway for yet another big apartment community. A project of Atlanta-based Davis Development, the Satori (as it is tentatively called) will have 270 units in several buildings and will be within easy walking distance of the Wawa convenience store on Gandy.
Darron Kattan, an expert on multi-family housing at Tampa's Franklin Street brokerage, said the Gateway area is "highly desirable'' to developers for two main reasons: its proximity to job centers and the high demand for housing in fast-growing parts of Tampa Bay.
"I do believe there’s also a niche of need below the true A-plus and high-rise core development,'' he wrote in an email. "The price point will be lower than what you will see in downtown Tampa and downtown St. Pete and therefore will serve renters that need to save a little more money yet still avoid the commute.''
4. You name it
Once, there was a company on Ulmerton Road called Eva-Tone that made CDs, DVDs and related products. It went out of business in 2010, and on the site now is a new, very long building that is an empty shell with 65,000 square feet of space in need of a tenant or tenants. The developer, MoreSpace Management Group, has real estate holdings in Florida, California, Arizona and North Dakota.
The most interesting thing about the building is its tilt-wall construction, like that used on the new St. Petersburg police headquarters. The walls are formed on the ground, then tilted into place.
"It’s great because you can put it up fast, plus it’s really nice if you want 20-foot eaves in the building,'' said Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty. "If you’re laying concrete block 20 feet high, that’s a lot of block work and nobody can get masons these days that can lay a straight line.''