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Billionaire developer John Catsimatidis says St. Pete is still ‘too cheap’

Tampa Bay Business Journal

By Breanne Williams  –  Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Apr 26, 2023

John Catsimatidis Sr., the billionaire developer of the Residences at 400 Central in downtown St. Petersburg, has a penthouse under contract for more than $5 million — but he still thinks the city is underpriced.

“I yell at the brokers every day, every day, the prices are too cheap,” Catsimatidis, CEO of New York City grocer Gristedes Foods, said. “Miami and Naples are twice as expensive — double what we’re selling in St. Pete for. We’re selling so fast, I may have to raise the prices, even though I don’t want to.”

Catsimatidis is the author of the recently published “How Far Do You Want to Go?: Lessons from a Common-Sense Billionaire,” a combined business manual and autobiography. In the book, Catsimatidis writes real estate has enduring value as long as it is located in places where people want to be.

In Catsimatidis’ view, St. Petersburg and much of Florida fit that description, he told the Tampa Bay Business Journal on a recent call.

He said he believes an exodus is happening in New York, and Florida’s pleasant weather and tax breaks continue to draw many south. He wants to build “wow buildings” in cities where his kids and grandkids will be safe.

Residences at 400, which fills an entire city block in downtown St. Pete, is the first of many Catsimatidis intends to bring to the state via his development company Red Apple Real Estate. The $400 million development in St. Pete will have 301 luxury condominiums, 40,000 square feet of office space, and commercial space for shops and restaurants.

“When you look at the building, you’re going to say, ‘Wow, I want to live there,’” Catsimatidis said. “And when you look at the top of the building, there’s an observation deck where you go up there and look at the stars and fall in love again. It’s basically going to be the highest point on the west coast of Florida.”

Catsimatidis said Red Apple is currently looking for development sites in St. Pete, Sarasota, Tampa and Bradenton. He said they “buy opportunities,” and they “don’t pay retail.” Kevin King, who was chief of staff for former Mayor Rick Kriseman, is Red Apple’s business development director for Florida.

Catsimatidis said while working in the grocery industry, he learned to keep his ear to the ground and adjust as needed. That mindset has been used in every venture he’s pursued since — like the real estate, aviation and energy industries — and has been instrumental in figuring out precisely what type of projects will do best in different communities.

He also sees demand for office space and wants to double the 40,000 square feet in 400 Central to 80,000 square feet.

“But we have to find the right tenant,” Catsimatidis said, “and there are a few tenants that are breaking down the doors because they want it, and whoever decides first gets the deal.”