1. Business

Florida Crystals starts building $60 million midrise apartments in Tampa's Channel District

TAMPA — What Port Tampa Bay wants to do in a big way, a South Florida developer is doing on a smaller scale nearby in the Channel District.

On a block south of E Kennedy Boulevard between 11th and 12th streets, FCI Residential is spending $60 million to replace an unused warehouse that once served the shipping industry with an Art Deco-inspired apartment house teeming with young professionals.

"It's one more piece of the puzzle, and a great piece," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a ceremony Wednesday to mark the start of vertical construction. "This is exactly the type of mid-rise development that will work in the Channel District, that will lease up quickly, that will create that walkable, pedestrian-oriented environment and that will then attract retail."

Part of the 2.25-acre site once housed the former Amazon Hose and Rubber Co., which had been at the port since 1951 but has been vacant for nearly a decade.

The new project will have 300 units in eight stories, plus a 61/2-story parking garage and ground-floor retail near its entrance on Kennedy. Rent is expected to average just under $2,000 a month.

FCI Residential is a real estate development division of Florida Crystals Corp., the West Palm Beach-based sugar producer controlled by the Fanjul family. This is the company's first project in Tampa.

"We like the Kennedy Boulevard address, and we felt like Tampa is a growing city with many positive trends — job growth, population growth," FCI vice president for real estate Juan Porro said.

The warehouse was demolished about three months ago, with site preparation taking place since. Case Contracting, known for its work on the nearby Slade residential project, will oversee construction.

Last week, port officials unveiled a $1.7 billion vision for 45 acres that it owns north of the Florida Aquarium and east of Channelside Drive.

Over the next 15 years, the port hopes to transform a series of parking lots for cruise ship passengers into a mixed-use project with high-rise apartment towers, hotels, offices, a bigger cruise ship terminal, a large waterfront public park and a marina surrounded by cafes and shops.

The port's ambitions are on a scale unlike anything Tampa has seen. Officials envision a total of 9 million square feet of development — more than all the office space contained in downtown's 18 high-rise business towers. And its architects have sketched out plans for two towers of 75 floors, nearly as many as the Chrysler Building and more than in any other skyscraper in Florida. The closest buildings with that many stories are in New York, Chicago and Houston.

The port's plan would depend on an estimated $200 million in public spending on infrastructure. Officials anticipate that money would come from the port itself and from community redevelopment property tax revenues generated by new construction in the Channel District.

Buckhorn said FCI's project will complement the port's plan, the $1 billion redevelopment that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has planned on land he's assembled around Amalie Arena and other new projects like the Pierhouse apartments on S Meridian Ave., built by the Miami-based Related Group.

"To know that people like the Fanjul family, Related and other big, national developers are coming to Tampa, I think, speaks volumes about where we are," the mayor said.

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.