Despite some community objection, St. Petersburg’s Design Review Commission (DRC) Wednesday unanimously approved a 25-story, 152-unit condominium tower proposed for 4th Avenue and 4th Street South.
The builder is Clearwater-based Valor Capital, which plans a $55 million hybrid model called a condotel that will allow for both full-time occupation and short-term rentals.
Valor CEO Moises Agami said his company was partnering with luxury French furniture retailer Roche Bobois to provide some common-space furniture and amenities. The two companies previously collaborated on a building in Mexico.
The condominium would replace three existing buildings on a half-acre lot: A two-story and a three-story building, both constructed in 1920, and a four-story facility built in 2003. They are located at 332, 340 and 344 4th St. South. The DRC confirmed that the parcel does not fall within state or national historically protected sites.
The ground floor would include a residential lobby, 4,893 square feet of commercial space and 130 parking spaces.
Agami touted his proposed tower, called 4th and 4th in renderings, as a less expensive option for downtown residents that prefer buying as opposed to renting. He hopes to break ground sometime in 2024, expecting construction to take two-and-one-half to three years.
With regard to short-term rentals, Agami said his company is simply respecting St. Pete’s housing needs.
“We live in a modern world where you have snowbirds who want to live here part of the year and digital nomads who want to travel,” he explained. “St. Pete is becoming a tech city, bringing young professionals who want to own.” He said that his tower will allow residents another option to ever-increasing rents and high-priced condos.
Concerns were voiced by a representative of Preserve the ‘Burg and residents of the nearby Sage apartment building at 400 4th Ave. In a prepared statement, Treasurer Bill Hoth of the Sage condominium association decried the inclusion of a “sky lounge” on the 25th floor, and the use of a building as an Airbnb or hotel.
Valor attorney Don Mastry, in response to a question at the meeting, said it was not yet known if the lounge would be open to the public. Another commission member said he was happy it was on the top floor, not the ground.
Agami explained that short-term rentals would probably allow 15- or 30-day stays. 4th and 4th will not function as an Airbnb. Valor will outsource those regulations to a management company that has not been chosen, Agami said. “There will be strict rules,” he promised.
Some on the commission brought up that an Airbnb or hotel model would require 24-7 staffing, not necessarily needed for a residence-only building. Karen Carmichael, Sage board vice president, said that the building height, contrary to Valor’s assertion, was “not consistent with the neighborhood.” The Sage is 13 stories tall.
The next step is for Valor to comply with site plan requirements before it begins applying for permits. One requirement is that Valor contribute $550,000 to the Housing and Capital Improvement Trust Fund. It must also provide public art, in the amount of one half of one percent of construction costs up to $100,000.
Valor was not required to submit a traffic impact study based on the project’s intended use.
Manny Leto, executive director of Preserve the ‘Burg, expressed opposition based on the loss of affordable housing and the proposed demolition of the two century-old buildings, admitting that the two buildings, “while historic, are not historically designated.”
Previously, Leto had told the Catalyst that a new study showed that 81% of the city’s small, multifamily buildings were built before 1960, providing much-needed affordable housing.