In 2016, John Catsimatidis acquired a 2-acre lot on Downtown St Pete’s 400 block for $16.5 million. “St. Pete needs a skyline,” said the Greek-American billionaire as he announced plans to construct the tallest in Pinellas County on the site.
The proposal called for a 50-story tower filled with around 325 condominiums, 200 hotel rooms, and ground-level retail.
While the tower may still become the county’s tallest, it won’t soar quite as high as initially planned. “Because of the proximity to the flight paths from Albert Whitted Airport, we needed to reduce the height of the building,” said Ralph Zirinsky, Development Manager at Red Apple.
The revised proposal now shows two buildings — a condo tower of around 40 stories on the east side next to a 20-story Marriott-flagged hotel. “The total square footage of the project is largely unchanged. We’ve just moved the hotel component into a separate building,” says Zirinsky.
There’s also interesting design changes included in the plans. The balconies of the condo tower are now broken up in the center of the building, which makes the tower appear less massive. This design element is incorporated into the hotel building as well.
Also, separating the hotel portion into a smaller building on the west side of the block serves to create a “step down” effect, which will help the building blend in with the surrounding neighborhood.
One other welcome change to the proposal is the addition of office space in the base of the tower. The new design includes around 25,000 square feet of office space, where the original proposal had none. This is great news for Downtown St Pete, where the market is currently experiencing extremely low vacancy rates for Class A office space.
No major changes were made to the first floor, which will include 23,000 square feet of retail, and entrances for the hotel, office and parking garage. “The streets of Downtown St Pete have so much charm. We want to continue that,” says Zirinsky.
Last week, trucks moved onto the fenced-off site for the first time in years as soil testing commenced. The results will allow the engineers to determine what type of pilings to use and how far down they'll go. The tests should be complete by the end of the week.
Up until now, progress on the project has been stop-and-go as Red Apple focused on finishing up another project in Coney Island. “Now that Coney Island is complete, I would say we are all systems go in St. Pete,” says Zirinsky. Red Apple hopes to submit plans to the city by the end of the year.