TAMPA — Construction project manager Carl Giovenco carefully walks atop a freshly laid concrete pad that forms the top, 23rd floor of the SkyHouse tower as welders and steelworkers form a frenzy of buzzing and pounding all around — seemingly immune to the knee-wobbling heights.
Looking into what will be an immense swimming pool on this rooftop deck, Giovenco muses aloud, “This actually will end up being the highest swimming pool in all of Tampa Bay. Not a bad view when you’re swimming.” Below — well below — are The Florida Aquarium, Amalie Arena and much of downtown Tampa, and off in the distance are sights such as Raymond James Stadium, Davis Islands and Tampa Bay.
“SkyHouse” is not just a brand name. Rather than rent the top floors to just one resident, the whole SkyHouse tower is named for an immense penthouse apartment at the top that any of the tower’s residents may use, essentially as an extension of their living rooms and as a sky-high version of the courtyard clubhouses in mere four- or five-story apartment complexes.
Soon, residents of this Channel District tower at 112 N. 12th St. will be able to splash in the pool while sipping a cocktail, lounge about watching gigantic flat-screen TVs or cool off in a living room with pool table, arcade and gigantic TV. There’s even an artificial turf “lawn” where residents can lounge on Adirondack chairs with a beverage.
Today, top executives of the development team will hold a “topping out” ceremony, a traditional milestone in a tower’s construction when workers reach the highest point of a planned structure. As is traditional in the construction community, they will attach a pine tree atop for good luck, and probably a giant American flag and flag of Batson-Cook, the construction company in charge, and one for Novare Group, the overall developer behind similar SkyHouse towers across the country.
SkyHouse will have plenty of competition in Tampa because of a series of towers sprouting up downtown, putting each tower in a head-to-head competition for high-earning millennial renters who have come to expect over-the-top luxuries: posh yoga studios, cocktail lounges, wine lockers and blistering-fast Internet speeds.
Many apartment towers are in the planning phase, and developers are sifting out which will have the most posh perks:
♦The Residences at the Riverwalk may boast the highest height, at 36-stories, with 380 units planned adjacent to the Straz Center along the Hillsborough River. After dismissal of lawsuits seeking to block the project, the tower is well into the planning phase, and Tampa expects to begin rerouting some streets to straighten out the now-twisted routes around the Straz and make way for a promenade of shops and restaurants.
♦That tower is backed by Greg Minder of Intown Group and Phillip Smith of Framework Group, who also are planning for a new tower on Harbour Island called — for now — the Harbour Island Apartments. That 21-story tower at the northeast corner of Knights Run Avenue and Harbour Post Drive could see completion in 2016. It will have 235 units, including several two-story units near the base. Compared with other residential towers in the area that focus on studio and one-bedroom apartments, this site is characterized by developers as more of a luxury living complex with hotel-like services.
♦Nearby, South Florida-based Related Group plans to build a 21-story, 340-unit tower at 402 Knights Run Ave. with a parking garage across the street.
♦The Martin at Meridian in the Channel District will be a 24-story tower with 316 units. That project has been proposed in several forms during the peaks and valleys of the housing market and is a frequent target of speculation for a downtown grocery store.
♦Atlanta-based Carter & Associates plans a yet-unnamed tower that will take up an entire block in the core of downtown, bordered by Florida Avenue, Cass Street, Franklin Street and Tyler Street. That project could include 375 units in an L-shaped 23-story tower. If all goes according to plan, that tower could break ground in the beginning of 2015.
♦Sugar producer Florida Crystals Corp. this summer bought a Channel District property for $3.8 million and plans to build 270 luxury apartments on the former Amazon Hose & Rubber Co. site at 222 N. 12th St.
♦Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik plans to put a hotel-resident combination tower at Florida Avenue and Old Water Street. Though largely a hotel, that property may include 50 luxury residences. If built like other hotel-apartment projects nationwide by Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt, the property would offer residents the concierge and gourmet room service of a five-star hotel.
♦Though not technically a tower, the new Crescent Bayshore apartment complex at Bayshore Boulevard and Beach Place significantly ramped up the luxury level of apartments near downtown when it formally opened this year with a two-story fitness center, a yoga studio overlooking the bay, a business lounge and a Resident Club Room with wine bottle lockers.
Tampa towers have competition from new condos and apartments across the bay as well.
♦The 18-story Bliss condo project, planned to overlook Beach Drive from Fourth Avenue in St. Petersburg, will feature floor-to-ceiling windows in all bedrooms to take in views of Tampa Bay, with private elevator foyers and car lifts to whisk residents to their parking spaces on the first few floors.
♦The Salvador, a 13-story tower at Second Street South and Dalí Boulevard in St. Petersburg, will offer a concierge staff five days a week, a third-floor deck with a spa and heated saltwater pool, and gas cooktops in all 74 condo homes.
♦Just outside downtown St. Petersburg, the Water Club at Snell Isle gives residents direct access to the water, with boat slips and plenty of space to entertain guests at a waterside cabana, resort swimming pool and whirlpool spa.
♦Many of the rental apartment complexes going up in the city also offer amenities like the 3,000-square-foot fitness center at Beacon 430, at 430 3rd Ave. S., that will be open 24 hours a day with in-house exercise classes.
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As for who will live in all these new towers, developers of each project are targeting a similar set of demographics: millennials primarily, but also suburbanites who are moving downtown for entertainment options and empty-nesters who no longer wish to keep up with the maintenance of a full-size house and yard.
“Tampa is the main business center along the west coast of Florida and continues to draw young, educated professionals,” said Jim Borders, president and chief executive of Novare Group, which is building SkyHouse. Borders points to statistics that show that since 2008, the number of people between the ages of 18 and 34 has steadily increased across the country, and “a majority of this generation wants to live in a walkable urban setting close to public transportation.”
He picked the Channel District, he said, because it will “capture a large portion of the growth that is expected in Tampa.”
Studio apartments at SkyHouse will start around $1,200 a month, with one-bedrooom units at $1,300, two bedrooms for $1,900 and three bedrooms for $2,400. As for what will draw all those millenials to pay those prices at SkyHouse versus other towers, Borders pointed to the top floor and its communal wraparound penthouse that “allows all residents to have access to the best views in the city.”
The tower boom isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, said Sean Williams, a commercial real estate broker with CBRE who specializes in apartment properties. To compete, their amenities likely will grow more posh. He’s seeing towers go up with full-time concierge services, multiple lounges and cafes, business conference rooms for work-at-home entrepreneurs, virtual golf simulators and even small bowling alleys.
The particularly high level of rents the Crescent project drew only helped give investors more confidence in financing new towers.
Meanwhile, homeownership rates continue to fall as more people choose to rent. “You have the young professionals moving downtown and the empty-nesters who don’t want to take care of the house anymore,” Williams said. “You’re even seeing some parents and children competing for the same rental space.”
Staff writer Joshua Boatwright contributed to this report.