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bobliocatt

St. Petersburg lot pitched as downtown epicenter

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bobliocatt    0

Two towers would rise from a parking lot to house condos, upscale hotel rooms and shops, but the details are hazy.

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By SHARON L. BOND, Times Staff Writer

Published June 25, 2004

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ST. PETERSBURG - A parking lot south of BayWalk could soon be the site of two towers of 400 condominiums, 200 hotel rooms and stores such as the Gap, Banana Republic and Victoria's Secret.

"We are feverishly working on plans to submit to the city, hopefully next month," said Tibor Hollo, who owns the prime real estate at Central Avenue and First Street N with local developer Jimmy Aviram.

Hollo lives in Miami, where he developed the Omni International Mall. Aviram is involved in a number of downtown ventures, including the Parkshore Plaza condo tower and the Bank of America building.

The two bought the prime spot, called the Tropicana block, in 2001 for $4-million and have been working to develop it. At first, they negotiated with Florida Progress, now Progress Energy, as a tenant. But when that failed, Aviram and Hollo went back to their original concept of hotel rooms and retail, adding condominiums.

They have not signed contracts with stores. They have not set the height of the towers. They have not priced the condos. Nor have they submitted plans to the city. They are still talking with focus groups about what details might work.

But this much is known. Plans call for two towers rising from a base that has stores on one floor and probably two. Initial plans call for one tower to have 32 stories and the other to have more than 20, Hollo said.

Hollo said he thinks downtown needs another upscale hotel. The Renaissance Vinoy Resort, with 360 rooms, is rated three stars by Mobil and is given four diamonds from the American Automobile Association, high marks from both, though not the highest.

Hollo and Aviram are negotiating with two chains to put four-star rooms in part of one tower.

"One is talking 180 rooms; the other is talking 200 rooms," Hollow said. He would not disclose the identity of the chains.

Mayor Rick Baker agreed downtown needs more upscale hotel rooms. He said hotels of that caliber absorb customers not only from events such as boat races, the Miss Florida Pageant and First Night (the New Year's Eve celebration), but also bring in their own with conventions and conferences at the hotel itself.

"I believe it would be a very positive project for the city," Baker said.

He has been having conversations with Hollo for the past year and a half, he said, and has even visited Miami to learn more about him and his developments there.

"I've heard nothing but positive things about him," Baker said.

Plans for the condominiums are fluid. A market analysis, with focus groups, is under way. In a few months, when that is complete, the developers will set the size and price of the condos.

Although no retailers are signed, Hollo said he wants well-known names, which is why he is pursuing the Gap, Victoria's Secret and Banana Republic for the Tropicana block, which is bounded by First and Second streets N and Central and First avenues N.

He said he thinks chances are good for such popular retailers because of the growing residential population downtown. Six luxury condominium towers - one each at the Cloisters and Florencia and four at Vinoy Place - have been built in the past five years and are occupied.

Another, Parkshore Plaza, is under construction on Beach Drive and still another is planned there.

There are numerous smaller condo projects being built and several apartment buildings being converted to for-sale units.

Also, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, just south of downtown, is expanding and bringing in residential students.

"One of the things retailers are afraid of is when downtown empties out at 5 o'clock. What they are looking for is 24-hour living conditions," Hollo said. "People are there (in downtown St. Petersburg) 24 hours a day."

- Times staff writer Kelly Virella contributed to this report.

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smiley    0

Well, this guy is a real developer - not a fly by night type and he is correct that that is a crucial lot - without something there downtown still feels incomplete. - look at all the parking he already has. Something will fly there.

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Jahi98    0

Looking forward to seeing the final plans. As Smiley said, this is a bona fide developer. DT St. Pete has a lot of gaps, but this one is probably the most pronounced one. This project would fill that site nicely. With these towers, the two Opus towers (one going up now), the Florida International Museum site project (hopefully another tall tower) and the Bayway Lofts (which I hope gets built), the downtown skyline would have a new look in 5 years.

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smiley    0

What is crucial about this lot is that it is basically the center of downtown - visually and activitywise. It will conncet all the development going on near the water and really give you a sense of place which is still sort of lacking in St. Pete - especially if Progress Energey builds a 20 or so story office basically across the street. It will really get teh street level all connected. I am jsut hoping. That is a lot of units to sell.

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