When Frank Guerra of Miami first visited St. Petersburg 25 years ago, he left unimpressed. That wasn’t the case when he returned in 2012.
“It was just a completely different city,” Guerra said, invoking a place that not only had survived the recession but seemed to be thriving.
Guerra’s company, Coral Gables-based Altis Cardinal, bought a nondescript high-rise apartment building in the Historic Kenwood area four years ago and renovated it into the upscale Skyline Fifth. Altis Cardinal has since acquired several parcels nearby and plans 128 more apartments plus a large climate-controlled storage facility.
Guerra isn’t the only South Florida developer who’s bullish on Tampa Bay.
Drive around Tampa and St. Petersburg and it’s obvious that the bay area’s two biggest cities are in the midst of an apartment and condo building boom. What’s not so obvious is that many of the projects — including some of the biggest — are the work of South Florida developers.
A West Palm Beach company is erecting a 41-story condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg that will be one of the tallest buildings on Florida’s Gulf Coast. A Miami company plans a 36-story apartment tower next to the Straz Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa. Another Miami firm will act as lead developer on Tampa’s massive revitalization of its West River area.
As the new year starts, at least 15 multi-family housing projects totalling more than $1 billion are underway or planned in the bay area by South Florida developers. If all come to fruition, they will add more than 5,000 rental and condo units — most of them high-end — to a market that already enjoys a reputation as one of the best places to build in Florida.
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