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Major Ruskin/Sun City Center apartment complex signals area's changing dynamics

RUSKIN — A major apartment complex that signals the changing dynamics of the Sun City Center/Ruskin area expects to open in January.

Drivers traveling north on Cypress Village Drive have seen the construction of Shadetree Apartments. It boasts of 260 units and 13 separate buildings.

It's a welcome sight for folks seeking affordable housing and desperate for options outside of single family and condo dwellings.

Developer Phillip Smith expects the project to appeal to the retirement population seeking alternatives to high mortgages, ever-increasing association fees, and sometimes dwindling pension income. It also should attract a younger population still in the work force and in need of affordable housing.

Smith, president of the Framework Group, put in years of research before settling on this area and this particular building style. Back in 2007, Smith put a contract on the tract of land because he foresaw the rapid pace at which Hillsborough County was moving toward the SouthShore region. He realized that Ruskin was going to feel that pressure very soon.

"At that time, all of the development that was proposed for this area were all single-family homes … no apartments," Smith said. "My thinking was that this intersection was already well established and when that growth happens, this is where it's going to expand."

But then the recession of 2008-09 hit and the project was put on hold. Smith kept in touch with Mike Miller, landowner of the property, with the understanding that when the economy turned around, they would come back to the table.

Finally, in 2014-15, they felt that the time was right. Amazon had announced that they were moving into Ruskin and that was a big game changer for SouthShore development.

Unfortunately, Miller passed away just as renegotiations were about to begin. Once again, everything stopped and the project was put on hold. A year and a half later, Smith reconnected with Miller's family and got the whole project locked down with the Hillsborough County approval process.

After an 11-year wait, Shadetree is finally underway.

Anticipating questions from neighbors along Cypress Village Drive, Smith has worked to provide answers.

"We had a couple of meetings with the homeowner's associations, fielding questions like, 'What is it? How much is it? How many buildings? What about traffic?' We didn't receive any opposition and the community seemed to be okay with it.

"I think once they see the finished product, they're going to be very happy. We're looking forward to being good neighbors."

Shadetree Apartments will feature a variety of sizes and amenities. Units will range from studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and the amenities will mirror most high-end complexes.

"We will offer all the appointments you would expect in today's apartments which have really come a long way in the last 10 years," Smith said. "There will be a separate clubhouse with a swimming pool, multiple conference rooms, a well-appointed fitness center with a sauna. We want to provide higher quality finishes like folks would see in their homes – huge walk-in closets, great storage, kitchens that are fully appointed with granite countertops.

"So there is no longer that kind of trade-off that there once was when moving from a condo to an apartment."

Some units will even offer attached garages and elevators for added convenience and security.

Rental rates will range from $1,100 to $1,200 a month for smaller units and $1,300 to $1,400 for larger units.

"Relatively speaking, these units are very affordable when you compare them to a comparable place in Tampa, St. Pete, or even Brandon," Smith said. "Plus, this has a much more hospitable atmosphere."

Construction will continue for a few more months and Smith says that banners and new signs will begin to be displayed on the site in late August giving useful information.

A marketing presence will be on site then and information leading to a web site which will provide floor plans. Leasing will begin in October and move-ins will start in January.

Contact Kathy Straub at