Downtown apartment building moves forward in St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG - A five-story, 125-unit apartment building set to go up on Fourth Avenue South, near the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus, got the green light from city officials Thursday, adding to a diverse collection of residential projects in the works for downtown. Sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, city council members unanimously approved plans for Urban Edge, which will include 40 market-rate rental units, with monthly rents ranging from $1,600 to $2,000, and 85 affordable housing units restricted to seniors. The building also will have more than 5,000 square feet of retail space on the street, expanding downtown's shops closer to the university campus. Winter Park-based developer Atlantic Housing is awaiting approval of building and site permits and plans to finish construction by the end of the year. Urban Edge is one of more than a half-dozen condo and apartment buildings in the works downtown, ranging from luxury townhouses to affordable apartments. Current plans would add more than 1,200 new units to downtown St. Petersburg over the next few years, city officials say."We are seeing people that are really interested in being close to their jobs and close to all these services, so that is in high demand," said Scott Culp, a principal with Atlantic Housing, which has developed more than 25,000 apartment homes in 10 states. "In the past, real estate values in those urban areas were so inflated that the economics of trying to develop something in those areas that was not a high-rise, which of course adds to the cost, was not feasible," he said. Downtown property would have cost five or six times more before the recession, Culp said. Since the recession brought numerous high-rise developments to a halt, though, several developers have sought city approval in recent months to build residential properties downtown, some as small as two stories, others towering to 18. Construction has already begun on the 96-unit Campbell Landings at Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue South and the eight-story Bayway Apartments in the 200 block of Third Avenue North, which will have 324 units, according to Corey Malyszka, the city's urban design and development coordinator. Other projects are in various stages of the city's review process and likely will begin construction soon. "You're going to see these projects going vertical very shortly," he said. While some of these projects will be high-rises, Malyszska says many developers are showing a preference lately for less expensive, low-rise buildings. Costs go up with the height of buildings as developers must comply with a different set of code requirements, he said. "Now what we're seeing is rentals instead of condos and then smaller buildings, and typically the reason why is construction cost," he said. "It's less costly to build a building that's four or five or six stories than a high-rise." Plans for Urban Edge had to comply with the city's Intown Redevelopment Plan, which calls for the property to be pedestrian-friendly, fit in with surrounding development and support retail. The scale of Urban Edge fits with the low-rise townhomes to its north and south, and it is the same height as The Madison condos a block to the east on Fourth Avenue South. Parking will be under the apartments. Future neighbors of Urban Edge, such as USF St. Petersburg only a few blocks away, welcome more building nearby. While undergraduate students probably won't be able to afford the rent, faculty and many of the professionals who work in the research institutes adjacent to campus will appreciate the new option close to work, university spokesman Tom Scherberger said. But aside from the additional housing, developing nearby empty lots also creates a more unified downtown between campus and the city center, he said. "The more we can see empty spaces filled in with high-quality development and retail, the better it will be for us to have a closer connection with the downtown area," Scherberger said. St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association President Marilyn Olsen said she appreciates the diversity of development that has been proposed recently downtown, which caters to both wealthy condo buyers and renters. "There are times when it's all apartments or it's all condos or it's all something else, and this year, starting last year, there really have been a very broad range of the types," she said.
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