Plans filed ro develop Prime Georgetown site

by Christopher O'Donnell

More than a thousand luxury homes could be coming to one of South Tampa’s most coveted waterfront parcels.

DeBartolo Development recently filed preliminary plans with the city to develop the former Georgetown apartment complex between South West Shore Boulevard and Old Tampa Bay just north of Gandy Boulevard.

Up to 1,235 homes and 9 acres of retail could be developed on the 160-acre property under its current zoning. The site boasts postcard-perfect views of the bay, beaches and a network of canals for boat slips.

“Most of the residential is waterfront, so it’s a very special piece of real estate,” said Edward Kobel, DeBartolo president and chief operating officer. “It’s one of the few places in Tampa with white sand beaches.

A gauge of how desirable the property is comes from the $125 million sale price the Motta Group, a Fort Lauderdale company, shelled out for the land in 2005 near the peak of the real estate boom.

But the market crashed and the property went into foreclosure before a single new home was built. DeBartolo paid $30 million for the property in 2009, records show. It leveled the 600 old apartments, which dated to the 1960s. The site has been vacant since then while the firm waited for the local housing market to rebound.

With demand for homes in South Tampa hot right now, Kobel said he is hearing from many national luxury homebuilders who want to develop a piece of the project.

“The market is pretty robust,” Kobel said. “Interest rates are at record lows; there is so much demand to live and work in South Tampa. That’s a big driver.”

The plans filed with the city do not show what kind of properties will be built but lay out proposed roads, setbacks and tree lines.

Construction of new homes could begin as soon as the summer, Kobel said. The price, size and type of properties have not been finalized.

The Trust for Public Land, a conservation group, tried in 2009 to buy a bayfront portion of the land to preserve and turn into a park. A citizen’s committee also put an 80-acre portion of the site on a list of potential purchases by Hillsborough’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

Neither effort came to fruition.

“There was talk about buying a parcel for a park; that never came to pass,” said Bob McDonaugh, Tampa administrator of economic opportunity. “They were never able to reach a financial agreement.”

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Twitter: @codonnellTBO