By ALEXANDRA LUNDAHL
CLEARWATER – After rough beginnings, Water’s Edge luxury condominiums are nearly filled, adding new permanent residents with deep pockets to the framework of downtown Clearwater.Water’s Edge is a high-rise condominium building, 26 stories tall at the end of Cleveland Street. It has 153 units, including 12 penthouses, though now more than 85 percent of the units are sold, and only two penthouses remain. But prospects did not always look so good for the development.
Original sales began in September 2005, at the peak of the housing boom, said Grant Wood, asset manager of Water’s Edge and managing member of Stingray Asset Management, LLC. Initially, 109 contracts were made pre-construction.
“Unfortunately, there was a situation that came up that was legal in nature that allowed for the ability for unit contract holders to rescind their contracts,” Wood said. “And that came up in 2008, which was obviously a time when rates were declining. At that time, just about all of the contracts at that time elected to rescind their contract.”
The would-be homeowners received their deposits back, and that caused the property to hit a standstill, ultimately resulting in the bankruptcy of Opus South, the original developer, Wood said. The bankruptcy took between 18 and 24 months to go through, and the lender, Wells Fargo/Wachovia, sold the property to a new lender in the summer of 2010 at a discount, said Dave Traynor, director of sales at Water’s Edge. Maxwell Drever, the current sponsor of the property, acquired the property in July 2010 and re-launched sales, Wood said.
“At that time, only 10 units had been sold in the building,” Wood said. “There are 153 total units. So we purchased 143 and launched it in July 2010 and sold 30 units coming right out of the gate. There was a bit of pent up demand for it. We obviously restructured the pricing to make it more realistic with what the market was demanding at the time. And we’ve just had a consistent flood since then. I would say February, March this year are two of our strongest months. We’ve done 16 deals in 45 days, which has taken us over that 85 percent, and we have 20 units remaining. It’s been just a whirlwind of activity.”
The condos range from $250,000 to $1.575 million for the largest penthouse, Traynor said. The average unit is in the $400,000s, he said. Most of the owners are empty-nesters who are looking more for maintenance-free living, he said.
“It’s just a great core group of owners,” Wood said. “We’ve got roughly 60 percent I’d say who are permanent occupants, and then you have a contingent of second-home owners who are probably at about 35 percent, and then we have about 10 renters right now.”
Compared to beach properties, which often are around 20- or 25-percent, Grant said, that is excellent.
Surrounded by Coachman Park, the Clearwater Harbor Marina boat slips, the Capitol Theater and numerous restaurants, and shops, Water’s Edge offers convenience and an ideal location for people who want to be at the center of activity in downtown, as well as just a mile away from Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.
Inside, luxurious features and amenities surround residents. A ground floor social room boasts marble floors and Venetian plastered walls, with a pool table, private dining area and marble-
topped bar. Residents can rent out the room for private parties, and it is where monthly gatherings are hosted for owners to meet and socialize. These events foster a neighborhood feeling, Wood said, and people are always excited to meet their neighbors. Wood said the sales team often brings prospective buyers to these meet-and-greets.
“As soon as they see the culture and that neighborhood kind of sense and feel, it’s, ‘Yes, this is where I want to be,’” Grant said.
Many of the homeowners come from single-family homes and at first wonder if condo life is for them. But then many see that the community is much like the neighborhoods they are used to, Wood said. Homeowners at Water’s Edge go to dinner together, travel together, often share similar interests, he said.
“Also, everyone is new,” Traynor added. “So they all want to meet new people. There are no cliques that have been around for 10 years.”
The fifth floor is home of the amenity deck, with a heated outdoor swimming pool and a fitness center.
“We have a beautiful fitness room with high ceilings, hypoallergenic floors, all commercial-grade equipment,” Traynor said. “We have a refrigerator and flat-screen TVs, and both showers and a steam room. Our owners are blown away by the amenities here. One of them said, ‘Where’s the petting zoo? You have everything here.’”
The units on the fourth- and fifth-floors are townhome style, taking up both levels and opening directly out onto the pool deck. This is especially good for active people who like easy access to the pool and fitness equipment, Traynor said. These units also are more affordable than some of the other units, these ones starting at $260,000.
As the tallest building in Clearwater, Water’s Edge boasts some spectacular views. From the top-floor penthouses, one can see a panoramic view of Clearwater Beach and the Gulf of Mexico, all the way south to the Skyway Bridge on a clear day, a bird’s eye view of all of Clearwater, and all the way east to Tampa.
The largest penthouse is 4,340-square-feet, with high ceilings, featuring the standard floor-to-ceiling glass throughout the unit – as is true for all the tower units – even in the master bath and walk-in closet, offering stunning views of the Tampa Bay area. The only other penthouse still available shares a wall and is a smaller unit, Traynor said. Both are designer-ready, so the future owners – or owner, as the wall can be knocked out to combine the unit – may pick out and install their own custom appliances, floors and other special touches. Combined, the two penthouses would be a total of about 6,000 square feet. The smaller unit has the highest ceilings of all the condos and also has a loft.
But it isn’t just the richest clientele who can enjoy luxurious living quarters. A model two-bedroom, two-bath on the 19th floor demonstrated not only the high-standard design and features, but it also showed off the smart structural design to maximize the view for all residents.
“Everything is floor-to-ceiling glass, and with the setback, even though there is a unit in front of us, you really don’t know because you still have a great view (of the water,)” Wood said.
That particular style of unit also has sliding windows in the guest bedroom so it can get fresh air as well as getting air from the balcony in the master bedroom.
“When you start looking at the market for this, you actually have a very limited supply of inventory, especially when you’re looking at luxury condos,” Wood said.
There is no new construction being built, Wood said, so it is an attractive market, especially for second-home buyers. Condos at Water’s Edge are being sold at below replacement costs, Traynor said. That means that the property is being sold on average for less than it would cost to rebuild the building. Wood explained that the cost to build Water’s Edge was roughly $341 per square foot, but units are being sold for between $240 and $250 per square foot.
Another ultimate benefit of the rough start Water’s Edge had is that since it was nearly vacant for two years, it avoided racking up foreclosures and other problems that the housing crash brought with it.
“We have zero foreclosures, zero delinquencies,” Wood said.
So many other condos and homes in the area ran into problems with foreclosures, and the homeowners’ associations had to pick up the extra costs. That is one thing buyers in Water’s Edge do not have to worry about now, thanks to its unfortunate beginnings.
The tower is also built to last, with hurricane impact glass, concrete block construction, and built above the hurricane code to Miami-Dade standards, Traynor said.
As nice as the tower is for the residents, Clearwater as a whole also stands to benefit by Water’s Edge now being occupied, Wood and Traynor agree. Grant serves on the Downtown Development Board, and he said at each meeting, he is asked how much more of Water’s Edge has been sold.
“Now that it’s becoming animated, there’s a lifestyle here,” Wood said. “People are able to walk to restaurants, so the restaurants are seeing the benefits of having residents within walking distance. And there are some residents who have boats out there, so the marina is starting to become more full. The events downtown are also a draw for our residents, and we’re always letting them know what events are coming in. It’s just an initial catalyst I think that is needed on the residential side to start supporting retailers that are down there and eventually growing those retailers. And activity breeds activity, so you can maybe see more residential (buildings) coming in.”
For many years, the main people interested and invested in downtown were government workers, business- and retail-owners, Wood said. But now there are people living downtown, and they are getting personally invested in wanting to see the downtown grow and succeed.
“They’re here after five o’clock,” Wood said.
Therefore, whereas there may have been plenty of restaurants and retailers that did excellently at lunchtime but were slow or dead for dinner, now having people living downtown, this is an opportunity for these businesses to become even more successful, Traynor said. He has seen many of the residents get excited to bring new owners to their favorite restaurants because they want to see those businesses succeed and grow.
There is also a movement to more urban lifestyles for the younger generation, Wood said. Whereas the Baby Boomers wanted the house with the picket fence, younger people are trending to be more active and not wanting to sit in a car for so long on a commute.
“You have people from areas outside of Tampa Bay who want an urban feel. They want to walk to the restaurants and walk to get a cup of coffee,” Traynor said. “They’re used to that, coming from outside D.C. or Chicago, and though it’s still kind of the small-town feel, they still want the convenience. And so for us in the Tampa Bay area, if we want those people to become full-time residents here, we have to be able to meet that culture. On the flip side, the city wants that because if you have people here after five o’clock, it benefits the retail areas, which many are very successful at lunch with your city employees, but they’d love to have success after hours in the evenings as well.”
Source: TBNWeekly.com (Beach Beacon, Belleaire Bee, Clearwater Gazette)