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Two downtown St. Petersburg houses could make way for a major condo tower

ST. PETERSBURG — Could another condo tower be in downtown St. Petersburg's future?

An Alabama company recently paid a total of $2.365 million for two adjacent parcels on Third Street S that now contain an insurance firm and a 1920s house. The parcels potentially could accommodate a building more than 375 feet high — about 37 stories.

"A multi-story building is one of the things we have explored but just on a very preliminary basis," Luther Cave, a member of the company that bought the parcels, said Monday. "We're presently researching various uses for the property."

BBWC St. Pete LLC paid $765,000 on Sept. 20 for a two-story house with the offices of the Wallace Insurance Agency. A day later, the company closed on its $1.6 million purchase of a much larger,Victorian-style house next door that once served as a bed-and-breakfast.

BBWC St. Pete shares an address in Mobile with L.W. Cave Real Estate, a commercial and industrial real estate developer that owns warehouses and shopping centers in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida's Panhandle.

Cave, in a brief phone interview, said the firm has done some "very small things" in Central Florida but termed the St. Petersburg purchase "the only one of substance."

"It's just the general growth," Cave said of the city he began visiting a few years ago. "I'm an Alabama boy but I like to come down there. St. Pete is a great city that's experiencing some real interesting things."

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Cave said he and his partners expect to decide within 90 days what to do with the parcels although they do not plan any retail uses. A CVS drug store occupies the same block, and a shopping center anchored by Publix is nearby.

The two old houses, directly across from the new 19-story AER apartment tower, are in an area where zoning essentially allows buildings of unlimited height subject to public hearing and approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. Albert Whitted Airport is less than a mile away, as are two condo towers — Signature Place and ONE St. Petersburg — that both top 375 feet.

Kathy Stange, the real estate agent who handled the sale, said the new owner wants to donate the Victorian house to a non-profit or other organization that would pay to move it. Built in 1924, the 3,700-square-foot house with gingerbread trim is one the oldest surviving residences in a downtown undergoing rapid change.

Moving any house, let alone an old one that size, can run well into six figures. Cost has been one of the main impediments in moving a historic home in downtown St. Petersburg linked to Elder Jordan, one of the city's early African-American leaders. Townhomes are planned for that site.

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