TAMPA — Water Street Tampa broke ground Thursday on its first residential project — a pair of apartment towers rising 21 and 26 stories with:
• Floor-to-ceiling windows in every apartment that open onto balconies eight feet wide.
• Roofs topped with outdoor pools, fitness centers, community kitchens and plenty of landscaping.
• A 25,000-square-foot wellness-focused grocery store on the ground floor. (Which grocery store has not been announced.)
• An address, 815 Water Street, in the middle of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development. Amalie Arena is directly across the street in one direction. The new building for the University of South Florida College of Medicine will be across the street in another. And a new Marriott Edition boutique hotel and condominiums are planned nearby.
Asking rents were not disclosed at the start of construction Thursday. Executives with developer Strategic Property Partners said they have planned 815 Water Street to have a diverse mix of tenants. Not only will it have multi-bedroom units in the price range of well-off renters, but it will also have smaller ones intended to be within the reach of middle-class renters.
"What we're really excited about is we've looked at this building through the lens of household income, and so it will be affordable from households making $59,000 up to a higher income bracket," said Rebecca Snyder, Strategic's senior vice president of residential development. "What's really important about that to us is we're offering a high range of housing. So we'll have everything from a 545-square-foot, one bedroom with a large terrace all the way up to a three-bedroom that's over 2,000 square feet."
Strategic Property Partners is the development company formed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, the private wealth fund of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Vinik has been working on plans for what has grown into a $3 billion mixed-use district with 9 million square feet of development for six years, and he's been talking about trying to make some of the housing in that district affordable for at least three.
In 2015, Vinik said during a question and answer session in St. Petersburg that he was considering including some smaller, more affordable apartments in the mix of units to be offered at Water Street Tampa, perhaps as a way to bring younger residents into the project. In any case, 815 Water Street is the first of several Water Street residential projects, with price points that vary from building to building. Thus Water Street could become home to residents from USF med students to young families to buyers able to afford a large penthouse. The condominiums above the Marriott Edition, for example, would likely draw well-to-do buyers.
Strategic originally had planned for one of the towers to consist of condominiums, but CEO James Nozar said the plan changed because the company saw an opportunity in the Tampa rental market.
"A lot of what we see in Tampa, and we do a lot of studying what's going on, is everyone is building to the middle, and there's a lot of opportunity on either end of the middle," said Nozar, who said he plans to live at 815 Water Street himself. "So that's what we're really trying to target is some more exclusive homes for move-downs, move-ups, for professionals living downtown, but also homes that are more affordable to those that are priced out of being in downtown. Of course we're going to fill in the middle as well, but we think that there's opportunity on both ends of that that we're really trying to hit."
Expected to open in late 2020, with pre-leasing expected that fall, the two towers will include 420 apartments and 35,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. They are being designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, a global architecture firm that has built just four other projects in Florida, none of them in Tampa.
"This is going to change the landscape," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said of Water Street Tampa. "Not just in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. It's going to square off our downtown, activate our waterfront and connect downtown to Ybor City. It is, I think, the most important private development project that has occurred in our city in decades."
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times