Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Trendy downtown St. Pete townhome project scrapped, permitting delays blamed

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — In September, developer James Landers said almost two dozen buyers had contracted for townhomes in the planned 801 Conway project in St. Petersburg's trendy Edge District.

But now the project is dead, a victim of permitting delays and rising prices sparked by the city's frenetic building boom.

"No doubt it's a hyperactive market, and the further we go in the cycle, the higher prices get," Landers, head of Aspen Venture Group, said Monday. "So certainly the core issue was delays in permitting but that leads to higher prices and makes the project more difficult from a financial standpoint."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 801 Conway project in downtown St. Petersburg designed to help millennials buy a home

As the permitting process dragged on with no firm construction date in sight, Landers said he decided to refund deposits rather than face the risk of buyers backing out if the 35 townhomes were not ready within the two years specified by the contract.

"We went through that scenario 10 years ago where people didn't close," he said.

The demise of 801 Conway — the first significant downtown St. Petersburg project to be cancelled during the current boom — has angered some buyers who thought they were getting a great deal on new homes in one of Tampa Bay's most sought after areas. When Landers first announced the project in March 2016, prices started in the upper $200s with monthly payments less than the rents for some luxury apartments.

"Honestly, trying to find anything close to downtown at that price felt like a little bit of Christmas," said real estate agent Nancy Alexander, who put $18,000 down a year ago May on a two-bedroom, two-bath home for $320,000.

Alexander, a former local radio and TV personalty who wants to downsize from her house in St. Petersburg, said she began to get nervous after noticing "there wasn't even a garden trowel in the dirt" when construction was due to start this spring on the corner of 8th Street N and Burlington Avenue.

"I must have placed five phone calls to the sales office over a matter of weeks with no response and in the meantime, I'm waiting to put my house on the market not knowing if I have a place to go if I do (sell)," Alexander said. She asked for and got a refund shortly before buyers received a letter July 6 notifying them that 801 Conway had been scrubbed due to "insurmountable difficulties."

Landers said his company submitted plans to the city around the first of the year. But, he said, there were long delays in the permitting process, which often entails a back-and-forth between city staffers and permit applicants over changes to a project.

"The initial round took 17 weeks," Landers said. "That's unprecedented."

St. Petersburg planning director David Goodwin has acknowledged that the pace of permitting has slowed due to the tremendous amount of construction activity. From Jan. 1 through May, 11 percent more permits had been issued than at the same time in 2016, which itself was a record year.

As of May, many of the 801 Conway buyers already had been under contract for more than a year.

"If permitting that should take three months now takes eight or nine, we're not going to be able to turn these homes over in two years," Landers said. "Let's say we move forward, finish and now we're on the hook for a massive construction loan and some of the buyers don't close because it's been more than two years. That's a scenario nobody wants to be in."

Both sales and construction prices have soared since Landers first billed 801 Conway as an affordable alternative for millennials who want to stay in downtown St. Petersburg but would prefer to buy instead of rent.

A block away from the 801 Conway site, six of the 10 homes in the Skye Townhomes project already have been sold at prices starting in the upper $400s although construction has just begun. And a few blocks north of that, planned condos in the shadow of an interstate exit ramp start at $450,000.

Landers' Aspen VG still has several residential projects underway in St. Petersburg, including nearby townhomes as well as large single family homes in Snell Isle and the Old Northeast.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

 
Comments
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Updated: 10 hours ago
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusi...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17