TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.
"I said, this is the greatest site in Tampa," Perez recalled Wednesday. "This whole section of Tampa is going to be thriving."
The chairman and CEO of Related Group made his remarks at the official groundbreaking of Manor Riverwalk, the 400-unit luxury apartment building where the Tampa Tribune once stood. Work already is well under way, with concrete pilings soaring skyward as the eight-story L-shaped complex starts to take shape.
When it is finished in early 2019, Manor Riverwalk will be part of a massive redevelopment of Tampa's long neglected west bank that includes the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and a $750 million mixed-use project for which Related Group is lead developer.
"I think Tampa is the most diverse and exciting city in Florida," Perez told a crowd that included Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other dignitaries. It also felt like the hottest one, as the ceremonies shifted from a tent with large fans to metal chairs and a makeshift stage baking in the mid-morning sun.
Perez flew to Tampa aboard a private jet and was accompanied by Related's entire executive team, a measure of the company's interest in the city and overall bay area. Including Manor Riverwalk, Related has completed or has under construction nearly 2,000 rental units in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
But the bromance between Related's Perez and Tampa's mayor was on full display, with Buckhorn calling it "an amazing relationship" and Perez saying he "immediately fell in love with Bob" as the leader of a "can-do city."
"We are very excited to be here," Perez said. "In five years, when people say which is the largest and best developer in Tampa, they'll say Related for sure."
The billionaire Perez is funding the equity portion of Manor Riverwalk with his own money, Related executive Steve Patterson told the crowd, while a $76 million Bank of the Ozarks loan will pay for the construction. (Equity typically is about 10 percent of a project's total cost.) The building will have three wings stretching east and a center wing that will appear to float over a pool and covered deck. Amenities include three courtyards, a fitness center and separate garage.
Related saved an historic grand oak on the site as well as well as the sign of the Tampa Tribune, which chronicled its city for nearly 140 years before ceasing publication in 2016.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate