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Only apartment in Ybor City going condo

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TAMPA - Ybor City's historic district is losing its only apartment complex.

Fort Lauderdale-based Tarragon South Development Corp. is scheduled to close on the 454-unit Camden Ybor City apartments today and convert it into condominiums.

Tony Martin, Tarragon executive vice president, said the company is buying the 8-acre complex for $60.5 million and will rename it The Quarter At Ybor.

He declined to detail sales prices of the condominium units, but the company already has a website for the property - - which advertises ``condominiums from $149,000.''

``This is the perfect prototype of an apartment community that should be converted'' to condominiums, Martin said. ``We believe this will fill a void for entry-level home ownership in Tampa and be a good asset for our portfolio.''

The Camden deal is the latest in a string of apartment-to- condominium conversions in Tampa Bay, particularly near downtown Tampa.

Tarragon's parent company, Tarragon Corp., is based in New York and created Ybor City Tarragon LLC to purchase the Tampa complex, which is between 12th and Palm avenues near Interstate 4.

The acquisition is Tarragon's second Tampa property in which it is selling individual residential units. That includes the 76-unit Arlington Park Town Homes, which was under construction as an apartment complex in northwest Hillsborough County when Tarragon bought it in December.

Although Tarragon owns rental complexes, including some in the Tampa area, Martin said its primary business is acquiring and converting apartment units into condominiums. It has converted nearly 30 apartment complexes in Florida and currently owns 18 complexes it plans to sell. Plus, Martin said, it is negotiating the sale of other complexes in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

``We look at four complexes for every one we buy,'' he said.

Nat Barganier, Camden Properties' vice president of real estate investment in Tampa, confirmed the pending sale but would not answer questions about the deal.

Camden, based in Houston, put the property on the market in January and said then that it needed the money to pay for its recent acquisition of Charlotte, N.C.-based Summit Properties.

Martin said the company will begin managing the complex as soon as the deal closes and will immediately notify residents of the change.

Florida law gives residents of condo conversions 45 days to decide whether they want to buy their unit. Residents who decline can stay in their apartment until their lease runs out or can terminate their lease with 30 days' notice, Martin said.

Resident Dan Holden, 21, moved into his Camden apartment four months ago and learned two months later that the complex was for sale.

``We have everything set up, and it will be a hassle to move,'' said Holden, who attends Hillsborough Community College. He may buy the unit ``if the price is right,'' but said he doubts it.

Camden Ybor City has one- and two-bedroom apartments that range from 654 to 1,182 square feet; the complex also includes 2,000 square feet of retail space. It opened in 2002 after burning to the ground during construction in 2000.

There are seven other condominium projects planned or under construction in Ybor City. Combined, they comprise 210 units, ranging from $200,000 to $350,000.

Several other apartment complexes near downtown and in New Tampa, south Tampa, Westchase and Brandon are for sale as condominiums.

Last year, 3,600 apartment units in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were turned into condominiums, compared with 2,400 in 2003, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm that specializes in apartments.

Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7804

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