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  1. Business

Big investor in Ybor City looks to pay $792,000 for city-owned lot

TAMPA — After nearly two years of trying, City Hall appears to have a buyer with a big plan for a high-profile corner in Ybor City.

The City Council next week is expected to consider a contract to sell a third of a block at E Seventh Avenue and Nick Nuccio Parkway for $792,000.

The buyer is a partnership between homebuilder Ariel Quintela and Darryl Shaw, the CEO of BluePearl Veterinary, a Tampa-based company with emergency animal hospitals and specialty veterinary clinics in 17 states.

Quintela and Shaw plan a $19.6 million project with 100 apartments, 8,000 square feet of retail space and an underground parking garage with about 100 spaces.

But that's not all they plan.

At five different locations throughout Ybor City, including the city's, they are pursuing projects that encompass more than 200 apartments, some in new construction, but many in historic buildings — the old Oliva Cigar Factory, the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn, the former Blues Ship Cafe — they plan to restore. They've already spent more than $5.7 million buying those properties.

Developing all five projects could add up to an investment of about $34 million in Ybor City.

"We believe that what Ybor needs is residents," Quintela said Thursday. "It needs people living there actively participating in the city. Bringing back people is the first step of making Ybor City come back to where it used to be."

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has met Shaw and compares his impact, on a smaller scale, to what Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment have planned for the southern end of downtown around Amalie Arena.

"My sense is that his heart is in the right place and that he wants to do right by Ybor City," Buckhorn said. "It's similar to Channelside. If you get someone who has that many properties, even though they're not contiguous, he's going to be a big factor down in Ybor City."

Their latest project is at Nuccio and Seventh Avenue, what Buckhorn calls "the front door to the historic district."

To have enough room for their four-story project, they recently paid $700,000 for the old Volunteers of America building to the north of the city's lot. Their project, The Marti, would occupy the whole block except for the Chancey Design Partnership building and the historic Marti-Maceo Club, officially known as Sociedad La Union Marti-Maceo.

Along with having exposed brick, balconies with wrought-iron railings and other architectural features common to Ybor City's historic social clubs, it would convert the existing alley on the block into a bricked public walkway and garden courtyard.

"It's really a lovely plan," Tampa economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh told City Council members Thursday, and was influenced by "buildings in Spain and Italy that have a face to the street and then an internal courtyard where people can enjoy a green space and a quiet space."

•••

This is City Hall's second try at selling its vacant lot.

In late 2013, City Hall put out its first request for development proposals and got two responses.

The city wanted to go with a $650,000 bid from Tampa's Liberty Group, which proposed an $11.3 million hotel with 70 guest rooms and suites, an interior lap pool, ground-floor lounge and rooftop bar.

Months later, Liberty president Punit Shah told the city he was looking at a bigger site in Ybor. City Hall passed on the idea of negotiating with the second bidder, a South Florida development partnership that offered less than half of the appraised value of the land.

So in February, Tampa officials again went looking for developers. Shaw and Quintela submitted the only proposal in March. McDonaugh said a lot of the time since then has been spent making sure the Marti-Maceo Club can live with their plans.

In the Shaw-Quintela partnership, the city has a team that has invested heavily in Ybor over the past couple of years. Their acquisitions have included:

• $780,000 for the old Oliva Cigar Factory at 2008 N 19th St. Shaw and Quintela plan to restore the building with 38 studio apartments.

• $2.2 million for the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn at 1915 Avenida Republica de Cuba. Plans call for the inn to be converted into 16 apartments with commercial space.

• $1.06 million for the Blues Ship Cafe, 1910 E Seventh Ave., which will become a mixed-use building with commercial space and eight apartments.

• $1 million for the Cadrecha Building at 1302 E Seventh Ave. They plan to restore the existing building and construct a four-story addition in the parking lot between Jose Marti Park and the New World Brewery. Altogether that project will have 45 apartments.

In addition to the $5.7 million on these buildings and the Volunteers of America building, Shaw and Quintela recently bought the Chancey Design building, which is on the same block as the city's land, for $4.25 million. There's not an immediate plan for it, but Quintela said they thought it made sense to control the entire block so their long-term projects are cohesive.

Buckhorn said he met Shaw — whose veterinary company has a workforce of more than 3,000, including 600-plus veterinarians — at La Tropicana Cafe in mid-2014.

"He had a lot of ideas," Buckhorn said. "All of them were good."

•••

The negotiated sales price for the new project at Nuccio and Seventh Avenue is midway between two new appraisals the city commissioned for its second attempt to sell the property. McDonaugh said the city sought new appraisals because the Ybor City market is changing.

The city also has built in a couple of protections in response a series of transactions that this summer raised concerns for City Council community redevelopment chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin.

On June 16, the Intown/Framework Group — a partnership between Tampa developers Phillip A. Smith and Greg Minder — paid the city of Tampa $660,000, the appraised price, for about 1½ acres in Ybor City. They proposed to build an apartment complex there.

They also paid $970,000 to the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg for a neighboring parcel.

On June 22, they sold both parcels, about 3 acres in all — plus their plans, part of a street that had been vacated and the development approvals they had previously received for their project — to a South Florida buyer for $4.25 million.

That won't be possible with the new project, McDonaugh said. The sales contract includes a no-assignment clause that would prevent the buyers from flipping the property after they buy it from the city, he said.

The contract also includes a provision that if the buyers don't start construction within a year, then the city can buy the property back for the negotiated purchase price.

The developers' proposal anticipates $15.8 million in construction costs and a 24-month timeline once they get site approval. For The Marti, they are teaming up with architect Walton H. Chancey of Chancey Design Partnership.

The underground garage would be unusual but not unique for Tampa. The site is more than 20 feet above sea level and more than 10 feet above the water table.

The Marti and the Cadrecha Building property are both near Jose Marti Park, and Quintela sees both as one cohesive mixed-used development.

Another theme that will carry from property to property, he said, is the approach to design, preservation and construction. For the floors in their apartments, the developers bought a building that dates to the 1800s near the Georgia-Tennessee border, with plans to import 40,000 square feet of heart of pine, maple and other wood from it for their projects.

"We're building them all for long-term holds," Quintela said. "We're not just building inexpensive, cheap apartments. We're building something to last for many years."

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