Plans For Bayfront Land Include Houses And Condos

By SHANNON BEHNKEN, The Tampa Tribune

Published: August 10, 2007

TAMPA - The Fort Lauderdale company that purchased the sought-after waterfront Georgetown Apartments site along West Shore Boulevard two years ago has filed plans to redevelop the 162-acre property.

The developer, Motta Group, plans a mix of 1,249 condos, town homes and single-family homes.

The company recently informed residents renting the 624 apartments that they will have to move out by the end of October. Residents are on monthly leases.

'The value of the land far outweighs the buildings there now,' said Roy Pascow, a principal of the company.

Motta Group paid $125 million for the site at nearly the peak of Tampa's housing boom in April 2005. The residential real estate market is struggling now, and that could affect what is built on the site, real estate experts say. Developers say they are hopeful the market will turn when it comes time to start selling residential units. They also own property in an area that has been highly coveted by other developers.

The new development is still in the planning stages, Pascow said, but the apartments will definitely be torn down. Pascow declined to give any details about the project.

'This takes a lot of planning, and we want to make sure we do a good job,' he said.

However, plans filed with the city offer a glimpse of what the company has in mind.

Susan Johnson, the city's subdivision coordinator, said the developer has submitted a plan for a new subdivision. That plan is pending now and outlines homes, home lots and streets, she said.

Public records also show plans to clean canals and address environmental issues, such as mangroves. That plan is under review.

'This is a big project,' Johnson said.

One thing that will help the developer sell its homes in the midst of the poor housing market is the waterfront location.

'People have flocked to the water since the beginning of time, and it will always be that way,' said Jarib Rodriguez, of commercial real estate company CB Richard Ellis. 'It's just a matter of how much you want to pay for it.'

The $125 million that Motta Group paid for the property means it will have to charge a premium for homes to recoup the purchase price and construction costs while making a good profit, Rodriguez said. Without knowing exactly what the developer plans to build, he said, it's difficult to say how much units are likely to cost.

Waterfront property along West Shore Boulevard is being gobbled up by developers. WCI Communities is building the West Shore Yacht Club, a 74-acre, 539-home waterfront complex south of Gandy Boulevard. EcoGroup wants to build residences, shops, restaurants and a marina on industrial land south of Gandy Boulevard and west of West Shore Boulevard. And The Cove, an apartment complex near the Georgetown Apartments, was sold to a developer in August 2005. Development plans have not yet been announced for the site.

Pascow, of Motta Group, said the company is trying to help residents find new places to live.

Residents are worried anyway. Susan Crane, who has lived in the apartments for 2 1/2 years, said she doesn't know where she will go.

'This is the first I knew they were closing,' Crane said. 'The last letter I got from them was when they were raising the rent. Before that, they sent a letter that said they were no longer having leases, just month to month, which I thought was a good thing. Now, it's bad.'

Reporter Michael H. Samuels contributed to this report. Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7804 or