Developers are usually challenged by what zoning regulations will allow or what prices a market will bear. Kolter Urban president Robert Vail said that is not the case for the "Trop block" it is buying from the Edwards Group.
"It is highly desirable, a great location and we feel like there's several different uses that could be economically viable," Vail told FOX 13 News. "We want to make sure that we really optimize the way the different uses will fit and integrate in the project."
Those uses will include ground-floor retail, parking, then twin towers for a hotel and condominiums with a view of Tampa Bay.
"It's going to be almost certainly in excess of 20 stories," Vail predicted.
Construction value? "It could range from a low of $75 million to maybe a high of $125 million, depending on what we end up programming in the way of structures."
Two other important points: It is going to happen, with construction expected to begin in early 2015.
"We don't sit, we don't resell a property for a profit, we develop -- that's sort of what we do," the developer insisted.
For years, the "Trop block," named for the final, partially-demolished building on one corner, has challenged former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker.
"It's really about dead center in the downtown area," Baker explained, "We have a lot of activity south of it, a lot of activity north of it, and it kind of has been a block that's just sitting there."
Or as Bill Edwards, the former mayor's boss, puts it, "What it does is it blocks the growth going down through the center of town."
So the duo set out to persuade Miami developer Tibor Holo to sell the Trop block.
"It wasn't like we just said, 'Oh look let's just go ahead, buy this land, let's flip it, let's sell it, let's get rid of it,'" Edwards told FOX 13 News. "The whole idea was to free it up and find the right people to come in and do something with it so it would not be empty anymore."
Edwards said he has "total confidence" in Kolter's commitment. The Edwards Group also owns Sundial, formerly known as BayWalk, and the renovated shopping complex is slowly reopening.
Edwards also owns the Tampa Bay Rowdies, which plays at Al Lang Stadium, which is next door to the Mahaffey Theater, now managed by The Edwards Group.
"If you think about it for a second, if you get Sundial going, if you get this block going with the hotels and the condos, and then you get the Rowdies and the stadium going in a lot more active way, then it really becomes a catalyst for all throughout downtown St. Pete," Baker continued.
Eventually it equates to employment opportunities. Baker said numbers are still being pulled together for Sundial, but they should add up to 500 or so jobs in its shops and restaurants.
The Kolter project will create hundreds more, although it is impossible to say exactly how many at this point.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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