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Developers look to old apartments for new homes

ST. PETERSBURG — Developers are looking beyond the residential tear-down or rare vacant lot near aging apartment buildings for the latest wave of condos and luxury homes near downtown. And it's the proximity to the Old Northeast neighborhood and downtown, not a water view, that are their main draws.

Three projects are in the works on the sites of 1950s and 1920s apartments. Quattro on Beach Drive and Towns on Fifth on Fifth Avenue, offer homes in the $800,000 and $900,000 range. At the Dunbar, at 400 12th Ave. NE, there are 600-square-foot condos for $149,000 up to 1,340-square-foot condos for $329,000.

"The strategy was to build units for a buyer who really wanted a spacious home but didn't want the maintenance and responsibility of owning a home in the Old Northeast, and for somebody who doesn't want to live in a high rise but wanted to be in walking distance to downtown," said Jay Miller, who is developing Quattro at 1101 Beach Drive. "Our design is reflective of traditional Old Northeast. Each unit has a detached garage and guest unit above that." The four houses, which are semi detached from each other, have their own courtyard as well.

He's sold three of the four homes, which are 3,300-square-feet and cost in the upper $900,000 range. Monthly fees covering insurance and maintenance are $500. Fees in condo towers downtown are closer to $1,500 a month, he noted.

Miller had considered buying the 1952 cluster of block apartments a while back.

"I reached out to the owners about two years ago and asked if they would sell. The price they wanted at the that time was way too high and it wouldn't make sense," Miller said. "As the residential market has strengthened, about a year ago I came to the conclusion I could sell units there that would support that (land) price now."

He paid $1 million for the property. The apartments were razed and construction is under way.

Towns on Fifth is also selling luxury condos without a water view or lavish lobby to lure buyers.

"It's downtown St. Pete. It's east of Third (Street) and between Central (Avenue) and Fifth (Avenue N). You can't beat that location," said Steven Coderre, the broker for the project.

It's being developed by Clayton Allen Homes and Ross Puzzitiello, who are eyeing the two parcels at 145 Fifth Avenue NE and 155 Fifth Ave. NE under contract. If they can secure the properties, the 1920s structures will be razed to make way for two new buildings each with four homes ranging from 2,600 square feet to 2,741 square feet for $822,000 to $870,000.

Towns on Fifth will be gated and have rooftop terraces.

Three proposed homes are sold. When another goes under contract, or half of the units, the developers' lender will release money and building will begin.

Coderre expects construction to start at the end of the summer and take a year.

About eight blocks away within the oak-lined streets of the Old Northeast, seven of 12 Dunbar condos have sold since the conversion of the 1951 apartment building was completed last year. Most of the structure was left alone, but a new brown and turquoise paint job really updated the old block building. Developers added new appliances, floors, central air conditioning, windows, landscaping and white pergolas. Some of the homes include washers and dryers, while the smallest condos have access to a common laundry room.

People of all ages and stages of life are buying at the Dunbar, said Kevin Petelle the Smith & Associates agent representing the condos. Units from $179,000 to $300,000 are still available.

Contact Katherine Snow Smith at Kssmith@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8785. Follow @snowsmith.

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