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A Miami developer has bought two hotels in Pinellas Park and is turning them into nearly 200 apartments with the help of the city.
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Main challenge: The most difficult part of the project was the zoning. Initially, there wasn’t enough density and the city of Pinellas Park wanted assurances that the conversion would be affordable for residents.
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What’s next: The first phase of the project is complete and residents have started moving in. Work on the second phase is about to begin.
Months after buying two Pinellas Park hotels and announcing the properties would be turned into apartments, a Miami developer has opened the first phase of the project, bringing new units to an area in need of affordability. and affordable housing.
The complex that evolved from two hotels in a high-traffic area of Pinellas County, between St. Petersburg and Clearwater, are called Pelican Lake Apartment Homes.
“We are in the business of buying multifamily apartment complexes and doing what is called value add to improve conditions in the community by improving the exterior as well as the interior,” said Humberto Cubillos, senior vice president of asset management for to Vidalta Property Management , an affiliate of the developer, Eagle Property Capital.
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“But we saw an opportunity when the pandemic started, with some hotels closing and others struggling financially, to acquire assets in good locations and good quality construction. So, we decided to put the hotels that it’s under contract.
Eagle Property has a portfolio of more than 6,600 apartment units, mostly in Texas and Florida, including 840 units in Tampa Bay. So far, only Pinellas Park hotels have been changed.
The hotels are the 95-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott at 13200 49th St. N. and the 88-room Residence Inn at 5050 Ulmerton Road. According to Pinellas County property records, Eagle paid $10 million for the TownPlace property and $10.5 million for the Residence Inn.
The two properties, connected at the rear of one and at the north end of the other, are on 11.9 acres and have a total of 14 three-story buildings and 209 parking spaces. When complete, there will be 183 studio, one and two bedroom apartments ranging in size from 500 square feet to 850 square feet. Rents start at $1,250.
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The first phase of the project opened in late July, with the first residents moving into renovated units in two buildings that once made up the TownPlace hotel. The Residence Inn portion of the project should be done later this year.
The properties are a good choice for the type of project Eagle wants to do because many of the rooms already have kitchens in them and other amenities that could be used in the renovation, Cubillos said.
Walking into the apartments, the configuration shows that the unit was once a hotel. But that feeling is quickly dispelled by newly updated flooring, brighter color schemes and dozens of other touches that personalize a small apartment.
In an interesting twist, Eagle left several units in each of the two buildings untouched so it could offer furnished apartments for rent. Cubillos said that almost 50% of the units rented on July 27 were those furnished units. Management on site says the greatest interest in particular apartments comes from college students.
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“It’s not just a need (because of) the lack of housing, but people are interested in furniture, which, for us, is a new discovery,” he said.
Pinellas Park, like many cities across the region, needs to either create or maintain workforce housing as rents continue to rise.
The city of 53, 000, according to the latest U.S. data. Census, is between Clearwater and St. Petersburg in the working-class heart of Pinellas County.
Nick Colonna, the city’s Community Development Administrator, said prices in Pinellas Park aren’t particularly high compared to its neighbors.
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But he wasn’t sure how long it would take because of the city’s location — with easy access to beaches, Tampa International and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and job centers in downtown St. Petersburg, Tampa and throughout the county. This, he said, means younger people and businesses are discovering and moving to Pinellas Park. “What that does naturally, it’s a double-edged sword, it gives you a better tax base but it increases the cost.”
“A housing value increase of just $50,000 or $100,000 can make or break someone. It’s better than other parts of the county, and it’s great for job attraction, but it’s something we know, that the City Council is aware of. We are working towards building workers’ housing.”
Focusing on making sure housing is affordable is especially important because all the attention often falls on luxury projects and low-income housing, he said, “but the everyday person here, you know, is that needs help too.”
From Cubillos’ perspective, one of the most difficult parts of transforming the two hotels was getting zoning approvals due to density issues. He said when the company bought the property zoning rules only allowed 40 units per acre for the hotel. When the property was converted to multifamily, that was reduced to 20 units.
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So the first big challenge Eagle faced was not having enough acreage to convert all 183 units. The company had to “destroy about half the project.”
The two hotels sit by a lake bordered by an office park on the other side. Eagle bought the lake.
The lake itself is about six hectares. The company changed the zoning for the lake as well as the zoning on the two hotels and integrated them all into one project.
With this, “we don’t need to dismantle any units,” Cubillos said. “We are converting 100% of all existing units.”
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Getting to that point was not so easy. Colonna said the lake and one of the properties are zoned commercial and the other is zoned for office and research and development. In order to do the project, the city had to combine the three and zone it as one property.
The thinking is, says Colonna, “if we put all these things together, we’ll tighten up some commitments.”
“It’s easy to say, ‘this is the one, and we’re going to build apartments, and we’re going to try to reach the workforce. Well, what do they (prospective residents) need on the site?”
Interestingly, a similar proposal for two hotels was considered in 2018 but failed to gain zoning approval.
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However, this time, the city and the Eagle were able to work together to come up with a plan that worked.
What the county did was make it a planned unit development, which takes the basic zoning and puts a design and use overlay on it. That includes restricting the project to target workers’ homes and making sure there are amenities that will serve the community, including a grocery store, since the closest one is several miles away.
To that end, Eagle agreed to build an outdoor gym for the public around the perimeter of the lake, as well as a dog park and barbecue area.
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