Since Tampa Bay’s real estate market emerged from the Great Recession, a multitude of mega developments have been announced. Some are well underway — the $3 billion Water Street, the $550-million Midtown and the $500-million Westshore Marina District, all in Tampa. Across the bay, the $250-million ONE St. Peterburg condo tower and adjacent Hyatt Place hotel already are finished. But little has been heard about several other big developments in months, even years. We decided to find out what’s going on.
JW Marriott hotel and residences, Clearwater
Unveiled in early 2017, this $100-million project was to include Tampa Bay’s first five-star hotel — a 166-room JW Marriott, a top luxury brand — and 36 residences on the site of a Clearwater hotel owned by entrepreneur Uday Lele. About a dozen units were reserved at prices up to $1.325 million. The whole thing was supposed to have been finished by now.
Last fall, though, Lele’s stake in the project was bought out by Dr. Kiran Patel, who had developed the $175 million Wyndham Grand Resort Clearwater Beach. Patel said he expected construction on the JW Marriott to start by this past January. Now it’s September, the old hotel is still there and the only JW Marriott under construction is a 519-room behemoth that’s part of Tampa’s Water Street. But the Clearwater project is still a go, said Patel’s s daughter, Dr. Sheetal Patel, who is on the development team.
“When we took it over, we did a real assessment of the project and we realized we wanted to create a space that was more in line with the caliber of property that JW Marriott guests would expect,'' Patel said. ”We took some time to redesign the project, and now we have residences that will all have water views whereas that was not the case in the previous design.'' Some buyers who had reserved units under the original ownership have backed out while others still want to go ahead with their purchases.
Patel said plans call for demolishing the existing hotel in about 30 days and starting construction early next year regardless of how many residences have been reserved. "The team is fully engaged with Marriott and making sure everybody is on board with the new concept so it’s all in progress,'' she said.
Two condo towers — the 15-story, 32-unit Aquatica and the 41-story, 253-unit ONE St. Petersburg — started construction at about the same time in 2016. People having been living in ONE St. Petersburg for months. No one has yet moved into the much smaller Aquatica, although it appears finished on the outside.
"Staff has received a few calls from potential owners inquiring on the status of the building,'' Thomas R.P. Snelling, Tampa’s director of planning and development, said in an email. "Most are concerned with the progress. The pace of the construction has nothing to do with the City.''
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Designed by New York architect Joseph Galea, Aquatica, at 3001 Bayshore Boulevard, has a striking curved glass facade meant to evoke the waves of the bay. It was developed by William Robinson, who also did the nearby Stovall on Bayshore condominium. His wife, interior designer Shilah Robinson, said painting and other finishing work is underway and that the delay in occupancy is mainly due to "some original buyers who haven’t picked their kitchens or floors.'' Realtor Toni Everett, whose firm handled sales for Aquatica, said the city has been slow in permitting.
Snelling, though, said his staff responds within 24 hours when an inspection is requested. "There has not been much work called in recently,'' Snelling said of Aquatica. "(The developer) has not completed a unit yet. …This project has been slow in scheduling inspections for the duration. The labor force on site has been minimal.''
All 32 units have been sold at prices up to $2.15 million, and Shilah Robinson who designed the lobby and the fourth floor amenities space promises that residents and guests alike will be wowed by the decor. “The hallways are in a herringbone pattern with black and gray marble,'' she said.
Isles of Old Tampa Bay, Tampa
Near the intersection of Gandy and Westshore boulevards in South Tampa, two prime waterfront parcels went into foreclosure more than a decade ago. One is now the 52-acre Westshore Marina District, the site of hundreds of new apartments and townhomes with a market district due to open soon and presales underway for high-end condos.
Meanwhile, an area three times that size sits fenced off and overgrown. Where the old Georgetown apartments once stood on Westshore, there is nothing today except signs for Everett’s realty firm and what would have been a development called the Isles of Old Tampa Bay — "a unique, planned seaside community,'' a dormant web site said.
Tampa-based DeBartolo Development, Avanti Properties Group of Winter Park and two other companies bought the parcel from a bank in 2009 for $30.5 million. Three years later, the partners put it on the market , touting the "incomparable'' development potential of 162 acres entitled for 1,235 residential units and a 189-slip marina.
Since then, little has happened. It’s not clear whether the property is still for sale: "We don’t make comments to the press,'' Marvin Shapiro, Avanti’s CEO, said in an email. About the only activity has been on paper, with the owners modifying a $30 million mortgage in 2017 and getting a permit for a stormwater management system last year.
One problem hindering redevelopment of the property: It is low-lying. “FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is raising all the flood elevations and nobody can do anything there” until base flood elevation levels are set and the seawall is raised, Everett said.
Bezu/Blue Lotus, St. Petersburg
Few projects in St. Petersburg have sparked more controversy than Bezu, a proposed condo tower that critics said was utterly out of keeping with other residences along Fourth Avenue N near Beach Drive. After six hearings, a scaled down version finally was approved in April but preservationists and residents of the historic Flori De Leon apartments next door sued. Nothing has happened in the case for months.
Despite the pending litigation, what is now called Blue Lotus "is moving ahead,'' said Lisa Brock, who handles public relations for the developer, the Driven Ziggy. Applications for site and foundation permits are "in process,'' Elizabeth Abernethy, the city’s director of planning and development, said in an email though "there is no building permit submittal package as yet.''
The Blue Lotus web site no longer comes up in a Google Search; Brock said it was taken down temporarily while it is redesigned to make it "more real estate friendly.'' The realty firm originally working on the project is no longer connected with it, and another firm recently came on board.