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Catering to young professionals

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From the July 30, 2004 print edition

Newest projects grab attention of young and hip

Ken Salgat

Staff writer

Amidst a wave of new mixed-use developments throughout the Tampa Bay area, developers are now catering to on a certain group of buyers -- young professionals that want to work, live and play in an urban environment.

Hoping to capitalize on an urban revitalization trend stemming from New York's SoHo district in the 1980s, developer Fida Sirdar believes his newest project, The Place at Channelside, will offer a new standard for contemporary living designed to cater to this younger, "hip" population.

"Channelside is a natural for The Place because of the unique blend of amenities within walking distance," said Sirdar, president of Key Developers Group LLC. "Our project wants to set the tone for future gentrification."

And the numbers lend support.

Between 1992 and 2002, the Tampa Bay area's population grew by 19.1 percent.

In addition, more than 145,800 people migrated to the Tampa Bay region between 2000 and 2002. Of the total international migration of 32,026 people who migrated to the Tampa Bay area during this period, Hillsborough County received 42 percent.

The population of the counties that comprise the Tampa Bay metropolitan statistical area, 3.7 million based on 2002 figures, has similar characteristics with regard to gender, race and household size. However, Pasco and Hernando counties have older populations, both with median ages of 49 years.

In Pinellas County the median age is 43 years, whereas in Hillsborough County it's 34, which is representative of the national norm. Hillsborough County, especially, attracts younger adults because of diverse industries and a growing economy, based on a report from Enterprise Florida.

Future residents at The Place at Channelside can select floor plans for suites and penthouses ranging from 926 to 3,665 square feet, plus nine studios at 600 square feet, with prices ranging from the $180,000s to more than $1 million.

In addition, The Place will include a retail component. Sirdar said the property aims to host an eclectic blend of upscale European-style retail shops, including a sidewalk cafe, unique boutiques, local grocer and newsstand, artists' studios/galleries, wine store, day spa, dry cleaners and automated teller machines.

"We want our residents to be able to enjoy themselves without having to get into their cars," said Sirdar. "With what's happening in the district recently, I feel extremely confident we will succeed."

Each of the complex's 243 suites and penthouses incorporate innovative architecture that includes hardwood flooring, vaulted ceilings and full-glass balconies.

"When buyers leave the model, we want them to feel as though there isn't a better fit for them anywhere in the Tampa Bay area," said Sirdar. "We want to promote a walkable community, with art and function and flair."

Diana Burch, marketing director and co-owner of Blue Line Realty at 400 Channelside Drive, said the demand for young urban professionals is more than just a selling point for developers.

"If you think about it, there's this big drive that we have to attract the young professionals here because like it or not, they are the future and they have the expendable money," said Burch. "If we don't attract and keep these people here, there goes our economy."

Burch, who is younger than 30, said she contemplated leaving the area simply because simple amenities didn't exist in downtown Tampa. Those feelings have changed.

"I live on Harbour Island and need to drive to Kennedy and Dale Mabry just to get gas or a sandwich," said Burch. "We need to make it more livable down here because the young professionals just don't seem to want the suburbs just yet. They want to be excited, and I think it's finally happening."

Bill Ware, managing principal in the team developing Ventana, an 84-unit, 11-story mixed-use project in the Channel District, said targeting the right kind of buyer is important in today's highly competitive real estate market.

"There's the belief in residential development now, and I think well-founded, that it is important to offer buyers more than just a residence," said Ware. "People now want, and expect, to have options when they buy a new residence. To make a development more attractive, it is important to be able to point to shopping, restaurants and other attractions in an area. Channelside now can offer that."

The trend isn't just spreading through the Channel District, it also has caught on in other parts of the Tampa Bay area, especially downtown St. Petersburg.

Tampa-based Opus South Development LLC is building the $100-million Parkshore Plaza, which will go up on Beach Drive near two existing luxury condo towers. Parkshore Plaza, like its contemporaries in the Channel District, has been designed to attract urban professionals who want to live, work and play near downtown, said Jerry T. Shaw, senior vice president at Opus South.

"We are very competitive in the marketplace and believe there is a pent-up demand for high-end living in an urban setting," Shaw said.

At Parkshore Plaza, tower homes will be built in 26 of the 29 floors, leaving the first three floors for a two-story lobby with concierge, fitness room and social areas.

Shaw said each of the residential floors, except for the top three, will have four units ranging in size from 2,500 to 3,100 square feet. Floors 27 and 28 will have only two condominiums each. Those units will be about 4,800 square feet in size.

Five of the 119 units will be penthouses in the 29-story tower planned for the 300 block of Beach Drive Northeast. The penthouses are priced at $2.25-million to $3.5-million. The other condominium units, some of which will be located around the tower, range from $268,000 to $1.2-million.

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