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Developer acquires once-hyped Tampa condo project, New Port Tampa Bay

A 2005 rendering showed big plans for New Port Tampa Bay, which was to be a massive residential, commercial and office development at the height of the real estate boom.
A 2005 rendering showed big plans for New Port Tampa Bay, which was to be a massive residential, commercial and office development at the height of the real estate boom.
Published Oct. 28, 2014

TAMPA — After being mired for years in lawsuits and foreclosure proceedings, one of the bay area's most ambitious marina and condo projects — New Port Tampa Bay — may soon be getting a new lease on life.

A Fort Lauderdale development company, BTI Partners, said it has acquired title to 51 waterfront acres once planned for 1,250 luxury condo units at the east end of the Gandy Bridge. Convenient to St. Petersburg, downtown Tampa and the West Shore district, the site is one of the most desirable undeveloped tracts in the entire bay region.

"There's over a mile of deep-water frontage and you're just not going to find that anywhere else,'' Beck Daniel, BTI vice president of acquisitions and development, said Monday.

BTI did not buy the land outright, Daniel said, but acquired it through a complex series of transactions, assuming debts on the project.

The property, on Bridge Street near the corner of busy Westshore and Gandy boulevards, already has undergone what Daniel called "significant"' seawall work as well as road improvements, and "lots of grading.''

"We are currently investigating several avenues by which to restart New Port,'' he said. "There actually (are) some condo parties interested in the project, lots of retail is interested, what with that location having frontage on both Westshore and Gandy, and the Tampa multifamily (rental) market is very strong right now.''

Daniel said BTI hopes to move forward with the initial phases of the revamped project in three to six months.

T. Sean Lance, a partner in the real estate advisory firm Vertica Partners, agreed it's a "great location,'' and thinks a mixed-use development would make the most sense.

With dozens of new homes, townhomes and condos being built in the Westshore Yacht Club directly to the south, "New Port in my opinion will have to have a little more diversity,'' Lance said Monday. "Restaurant-retail components in there would be nice. I think the earlier version of the project weighed too heavily on the number of condo units that were planned in there.''

Darron Kattan, managing director of the Franklin Street commercial real estate services firm, said the addition of office space could make New Port "more of a live-work-play area.''

"This is somewhat of a special site, so I think it could be successful in almost whatever they decide to do,'' he said.

Developer Ed Oelschlaeger announced New Port Tampa Bay with great fanfare in 2005 at the height of the real estate boom. The sandy site would be transformed into a 150-slip marina and two condo towers with spectacular sunset views over the bay.

Records show that Oelschlaeger signed promissory notes totaling more than $80 million. A new community development district, also called New Port Tampa Bay, issued tax-exempt bonds to raise $50 million for infrastructure.

Work started in 2006 but slowed as the housing market collapsed. Foreclosure proceedings began in 2008, and the district took title to the property last year in a foreclosure auction. Title then passed to BTI, which had acquired 100 percent ownership of the bonds and negotiated with other parties that had helped finance New Port Tampa Bay.

"We have come to own the project by acquiring various debt positions and eventually taking title via those debt liens in addition to workouts with other project participants,'' Daniel said.

On its website, BTI calls itself one of Florida's "leading real estate land owners, developers and asset management firms.'' Its portfolio includes thousands of residential units and more than 2 million square feet of commercial and retail development.

In the Tampa Bay area, BTI acquired land for Connerton West, part of a 1,140-unit mixed-use community in Land O'Lakes, and Cordoba Ranch, a development of 286 single-family homes in Lutz designed for horse lovers.

"We have been successful at partnering with or selling these projects to groups including Lennar, Standard Pacific, WCI and more,'' Daniel said, referring to several well-known home builders.

Other projects throughout the state include a mixed-use golf community in Jacksonville, a 2,400-acre single- and multifamily residential development in Sarasota and several apartment-to-condo conversions, including the 348-unit La Hacienda at the Country Club of Miami in Hialeah.

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