23-story tower proposed to replace century-old St. Petersburg buildings

One building will be moved and another will be demolished to make way for the condo project.
This rendering shows 23-story residential tower proposed for 126 Fourth Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. The developer is RaysUp, LLC, and the architect is Place Architecture.
This rendering shows 23-story residential tower proposed for 126 Fourth Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. The developer is RaysUp, LLC, and the architect is Place Architecture. [ Place Architecture ]
Published July 20, 2021|Updated July 20, 2021

A proposed condo tower that will take the place of two century-old homes in downtown St. Petersburg has gotten a lot taller.

Tampa’s DDA Development has submitted plans for a 23-story, 31-unit residential tower at 126 Fourth Ave. NE, just south of Fourth Avenue NE between Beach Drive NE and First Street N. That’s significantly taller than a different developer’s 12-story, 20-unit tower plans submitted to the city in 2019.

The earlier, smaller plan came from St. Petersburg’s JMC Communities, developer of the nearby six-story Rowland Place condos. That plan faded when JMC’s deal to buy the parcels from land owner Augie Ribiero’s RaysUp, LLC, failed to materialize, said DDA partner Bowen Arnold.

Now DDA is under contract to buy the land from Ribiero by December, Arnold said. RaysUp paid $2.9 million for the two parcels in 2017; Arnold declined to disclose DDA’s purchase price.

“Our group had talked to him about that site years ago, and at the time, we just couldn’t get our arms around it,” Arnold said. “But now, times are a little different.”

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The new proposal calls for a 288-foot building with “a contemporary style of architecture” featuring a coquina stone base, arched entryways and windows and “bronze-colored accents on the windows and balconies.” It would have 1,300 square feet of commercial space at the bottom, possibly enough for a coffee shop or professional office, Arnold said. Nearly half of the residential floors would have just one unit, most of them roughly 3,400 square feet.

“It’s 31 units, it’s going to be an exclusive building,” Arnold said. “And I think there’s a demand for that. With a lot of bigger buildings (downtown), to have a boutique building there makes a lot of sense.”

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The city has already approved what’s to become of the two historic buildings standing in the building’s way, which today operate jointly as a bed and breakfast called the Watergarden Inn at the Bay.

Built in 1912, the blue Bay Gables House, 136 Fourth Ave. NE, is a former boarding house that was designated as part of the Downtown St. Petersburg National Register Historic District. It housed the restaurant Chateau France until 2010. The St. Petersburg Community Planning and Preservation Commission voted in 2019 to relocate the building to the corner of Eighth Avenue N and Dartmoor Street North in St. Petersburg’s Historic Uptown neighborhood.

Next door sits a yellow building at 126 Fourth Ave. NE, built in 1910 and once known as the Morrison Hotel. A 2019 city report called this building “similar both in architecture and developmental history” to the Bay Gables House, but because it does not have a historic designation, it would likely be demolished.

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As part of its purchase, DDA would pay for moving the Bay Gables House.

“It’s not inexpensive to move that house, with all the lights you have to hit,” Arnold said. “But it is our obligation.”

The project won’t be the only new tower to replace a historic building on that block. Another adjacent house, the Henry-Bryan House at 146 Fourth Ave. NE, was moved in 2013 to make way for the Rowland Place condos.

Other local DDA Development projects of note include the Salvador condominiums in St. Petersburg and the Pearl Apartments near Tampa’s Armature Works. DDA is also a partner in Sugar Hill Community Partners, one of two remaining groups vying to redevelop St. Petersburg’s 86-acre Tropicana Field site.

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If approvals come through as planned, Arnold said construction on the new condo tower could begin early next year, with completion by mid-2023.