Prized West Shore site may have buyer

The waterfront property has long been a gem to developers. Now it looks like one builder has captured the treasure.

Published January 15, 2005

TAMPA - A south Florida developer has a contract to buy a prime piece of waterfront property in South Tampa.

A trust that owns Georgetown Apartments, which sit on 162 acres on West Shore Boulevard at Fair Oaks Avenue north of Gandy Boulevard, put the property on the market last year.

Mark Huey, Tampa's administrator for economic development, confirmed this week that the property is under contract and that city officials met with the new developers Dec. 30 to discuss transportation issues surrounding the property..

"We have met with the development company that has put it under contract and that was sort of a preliminary visit," Huey said.

The property has zoning and enough developable acres to accommodate more than 2,400 residential units. According to city documents, the developer needs to complete a transportation study to determine the impact construction would have on surrounding streets.

The December meeting included Jim Motta, who according to resigned as president and chief executive officer of Arvida in March. He created the Motta Group the same month, according to state records.

Arvida, a 47-year-old real estate development company based in Boca Raton, was renamed last summer to St. Joe Towns & Resorts. The company has built more than 60 master-planned communities with more than 40,000 new homes and 30 golf courses.

Contacted Friday, Motta would not comment on any potential purchase of the Georgetown Apartments.

Word that the 35-year-old, 600-unit apartment complex was for sale had generated a buzz in the Tampa development community.

"It's one of the most attractive pieces of property in all of the country," said Tampa land-use attorney Ron Weaver, who over the years has represented several clients who wanted to buy the land. "There are very few places where you can find 162 acres on the waterfront 10 minutes from downtown."

The Hillsborough County property appraiser values the land at $19.2-million, but some in the development community say the asking price is more than $100-million.

When they heard Georgetown was for sale, some residents in the surrounding neighborhood said they began to worry about increased traffic on West Shore, where it is a two-lane road often clogged with cars.

Because the land is already zoned for a large number of multifamily units, it doesn't need to be rezoned to be redeveloped.

According to a city ordinance passed in 1998 to spur urban redevelopment, developers don't have to complete a transportation analysis and pay to offset traffic impacts of their projects if they're building on land south of Fletcher Avenue that doesn't need rezoning.

But Thursday, the Tampa City Council preliminarily approved an emergency ordinance that would require large-scale developments to complete a transportation review and make road improvements.

Times staff writer Steve Huettel contributed to this report.

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