Moving To Downtown Tampa: The Martin Raises Bar For New Places To Live

Tampa's Channel District, nestled along the waterfront between the ship repair yards at the Tampa Port and the start of museum row at the Tampa Bay History Center, is showing new signs of life despite ongoing legal battles affecting the Channelside project and talk of building a baseball stadium on land now largely occupied by dilapidated buildings and vacant lots.

Most prominent among the new projects is The Martin at Meridian, a mixed-use development that contains 316 apartments, approximately 30,000 square feet of retail space and 43,000 square feet set aside for an active sports park on two acres of now-vacant land between Twiggs and Madison streets.

"My partner and I have been building in Channelside for 10 years now and I think we're ready for a second wave of development,'' says Martin developer Ken Stoltenberg. "I believe the Martin is going to be one of the projects to kick that off.''

Stoltenberg and Frank H. Bombeeck are the principals behind Mercury Advisors, the developers of Grand Central at Kennedy. After a slowdown caused by the nation's recent recession, Grand Central's units are selling again. Only a few of 392 condos remain unoccupied.

New In The Neighborhood

Featuring studios and one- and two-bedroom units, Stoltenberg calls the Martin a "first class job,'' boasting contemporary interior features and amenities. Expect prices and quality, he says, to be equivalent to the features at Grand Central at Kennedy, which is directly across the street. Units are expected to run between $1,300 to $2,500 per month.

Working with Urban Studio Architects and Hardin Construction, Stoltenberg and Bombeeck plan to break ground on the Martin within the next four months, constructing an environmentally friendly 24-story apartment complex with seven stories of parking and two stories of retail. The project will mimic Grand Central's modern Art Deco-esque design.

The Martin will join the Place at Channelside, the Slade, Bell Channelside and the currently under-construction 356-unit, $550 million Pierhouse Apartments.

And Stoltenberg thinks the neighborhood will become home to more apartment and condo projects as downtown Tampa's urban scene continues to evolve.

Seeing additional developments as opportunities for making connections and creating collaborations, Stoltenberg says he's confident that even traditionally competitive developers can work together to help make the district a thriving neighborhood.

"I don't see competition as a real problem. The more good, successful things in the area, the more good, successful things there will be,'' Stoltenberg says. "I try to realize that I don't know everything -- you shouldn't do everything yourself or try to be the smartest guy in the room. You should want to work next to different types of talents and let them do their thing while you do yours.''

Put Your Kicks To Work

Stoltenberg also has plans to develop something the Channel District is now missing: A fully functional sports park.

In conjunction with the development of the Martin, Mercury Advisors plans to donate $1 million worth of land to the City of Tampa for a new park called the Madison Street Park. The 15,000-square-foot donation, combined with 28,000 square feet of land from an adjacent owner, would open the door to all kinds of possibilities for neighborhood enrichment.

"With this big of an area, we can start to do some really cool stuff. I kind of look at development in the Channel District as a puzzle -- you keep filling in pieces until you have it all filled in, and we're confident that the sports park is a missing piece,'' he says. "Where else are you going to play basketball in Channelside? There are a lot of people in the area seeking a space for outdoor activities, but have nowhere to go.''

Featuring a dog park, basketball court, volleyball court and an area suited for group fitness classes and boot camps, plans call for Channelside Academy Middle School students to use the artificial turf park for recreational activities and Tampa Bay Club Sports' Chris Giebner may eventually begin hosting his Monday through Thursday program at the park.

"The Channel District is obviously an urban in-fill area and that seems to be where a lot of people want to live now -- nobody wants to spend a lot of time in their car,'' Stoltenberg says. "We hope that what we're doing inspires more activity and growth in the area because it seems to be where a lot of people want to live and spend time.''

Grand Central tenants include Powerhouse Gym, Saint Leo University, Stageworks Theatre and the Pour House. About half of  the project's 108,000 square feet of retail space remains available to lease.

Alexis Quinn Chamberlain, a Florida native and freelance writer, can often be found barhopping on South Howard Avenue, walking around her North Hyde Park neighborhood and daydreaming with her boyfriend and Chihuahua at Davis Island Dog Beach. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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