Make us your home page
Instagram

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

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

Trendy downtown St. Pete townhome project scrapped, permitting delays blamed 07/17/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 12:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  2. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]
  3. AAA expects gas prices in Tampa Bay will continue to fall

    Autos

    Ticking slowly and steadily, regular gas prices have receded for the last 10 consecutive days. The average unleaded gas price in Florida is $2.67 this morning, a nickel cheaper than a week ago. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas has dropped 7 cents from a week ago to $2.62. The national average for regular …

    Gas prices for regular gas continue to decline. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas is down 7 cents from a week ago at $2.62 a gallon. [Times file photo]
  4. Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay philanthropists Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel are spending $200 million to create and promote a Tampa Bay regional campus for the private Nova Southeastern University.

    Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Southestern Noval University}
  5. USF to rename sports management program for Vinik family

    Blogs

    The University of South Florida will name a business program for the Vinik family at a Tuesday event.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.