“Good urban planning requires balance to meet, in different ways, the needs of the diverse residents of a city like St. Petersburg. Our project did not receive any public subsidies; will increase economic activity in the City’s central core; and most importantly, will generate significant tax revenues.”
- John Catsimatidis, CEO of Red Apple Group
Red Apple took on a corner of the market—condo development—that many developers will not touch, opting instead for apartments. What uniquely positioned Red Apple to develop such an impressive product, to do it in Downtown St. Pete, and to develop in such a big way—promising to deliver the largest residential tower on the Gulf Coast?
Unlike many other developers who are dependent on outside investors and the whims of the financing markets, Red Apple is a well-capitalized, liquid, diversified company that generally uses its own funds, along with traditional bank construction loan financing, for its’ real estate development projects. This conservative approach enabled us to acquire the 400 Central property, thoughtfully design both the exterior and interior elements, and build an iconic building that I felt was optimal for the central core of St. Petersburg; and be a project that both Red Apple and the City of St. Petersburg could be proud of.
Has your vision for creating a “destination block” with 400 Central changed in any way over the last few years? Have you learned anything interesting about St. Petersburg throughout this process?
Over the last few years, the reputation of St. Petersburg as an entertainment, dining and cultural hub has grown. This has resulted in the City becoming a year-round destination. We are seeing strong interest from both high-quality retailers and well-regarded restauranteurs for our planned 60,000 sq. ft retail along Central Avenue; and have seen solid interest in the 45,000 sq ft of class A office space.
How is Red Apple balancing criticism that large developments will change St. Pete as we know (and love) it?
Change is an inevitable fact of life – and St. Petersburg is not unique in that regard. We believe that there should be room for everyone and something for everyone in St. Petersburg. As the Tampa Bay Times noted several years ago, the 400 block of Central Avenue is the right location for the type of large, architecturally iconic structure we are developing. Good urban planning requires balance to meet, in different ways, the needs of the diverse residents of a city like St. Petersburg. Our project did not receive any public subsidies; will increase economic activity in the City’s central core; and most importantly, will generate significant tax revenues and economic activity from a residential population that will put minimal pressure on the schools or other municipal services. We are confident that those tax revenues will be directed by City officials to fund numerous civic causes and initiatives.
You have talked about visiting family over the years piquing interest and awareness of St. Pete; this is a great example of how we gain many new residents—first through leisure visits, then relocation. Are you seeing any patterns in who is buying 400 Central units? Are they largely people from out of town, local relocations, or some mixture?
We are seeing a mix of people and demographics. Interestingly, there has been more than anticipated interest from residents of Pinellas County – people who wish to stay in the area, but who desire the lifestyle of living in the City’s vibrant, walkable downtown core. We are also seeing interest and sales from buyers relocating from elsewhere in Florida and from across the United States.
You have “teased” that your next billion will be spent in Florida—do you foresee future development activity being focused in Downtown St. Pete?
Absolutely. We think St. Pete has the wind in its sails.