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St. Pete's Beach Drive sees major resurgence | News

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St. Pete's Beach Drive sees major resurgence

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Just four years ago, they could barely give 'em away.

Now, if you haven't noticed there's another high-rise apartment boom going on in downtown St. Petersburg, even as other parts of the Bay area are still struggling.

At 93, Nick Giammarino stands outside his apartment building on 4th Avenue just about every day, watching it all happen.

Like a foreclosure Phoenix rising from recession ruins, he's witnessing a serious real estate rebound.

"Well, it's progress, ha ha ha," Giammarino laughs.

He's being a bit sarcastic. Giammarino remembers when St. Pete was more "country."

Now, he says, it's "more like a big city."

And the building that may be the poster child for the terraced tower turnaround is about to take shape right across from Nick's home. It's an 18-story tower called "Bliss." The condo is touted as "30 residences, zero neighbors – 100% exclusive." That's because private elevators bring residents to their own units. No shared walls.

"And we've already got so much interest in it I think it's going to be gone very quickly," said Liane Jamason with Smith & Assoc. Real Estate which is marketing the building.

Take a look at new Bliss condos (pdf)


Jamason says residential listings are so tight in downtown St. Petersburg right now, that on any given day a mere 8-18 units will be available. Maybe that's how "Bliss" developers decided to price units between $800,000 and $1.3 million.

Bliss's super-slender design also indicates how sought after even a sliver of downtown real estate is right now.

It's a complete turnaround from just four years ago when St. Pete developers were auctioning off luxury hi-rise units for a fraction of the original asking price.

So what's behind the rebound?

Officials say what St. Pete does have going for it -- aside from its beautiful waterfront -- is its culture: museums, and a seemingly endless number of restaurants and cafes.

There are challenges too. The fate of the Tampa Bay Rays is still an unknown. The Pier has been sitting stagnant. Grocery stores are scarce. And the mayor would like to see more economic diversity.

"We want a broad mix of residents, from the affluent to the middle class," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Residents also remember the last time things were going up this high this fast. How the bubble, burst.

"And lost a lot of money," recalls Giammarion.

But now?

"Now they're making money," he says watching a crane hoist huge slabs of concrete into place.

Real estate brokers hope this time tougher lending rules and bank regulations will provide a sturdier foundation.


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