(Bloomberg) -- Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis is taking a page from the playbook of many of his fellow New Yorkers: He’s setting up a perch in Florida.
The billionaire investor, whose development projects have been limited to rentals in New York City’s outer boroughs, is trying his luck as a condo developer in St. Petersburg. His firm, Red Apple Group, broke ground this week on a 515-foot tower, and has financial commitments from buyers for 20% of the 301 units, he said.
He bought the uppermost penthouse himself, for $7 million.
The project, called the Residences at 400 Central, “appeals to people who just want to move, and want to pay less taxes,” said Catsimatidis.
He’s among developers setting sights on Florida as the state continues to lure high-net-worth Northeasterners seeking better weather and more-favorable tax laws. Finance, banking and technology firms are setting up satellite offices in the Sunshine State, bringing with them a fresh source of demand for luxury real estate.
This month, Ark Investment Management, the firm run by Cathie Wood, said it will close its New York office permanently and move its corporate headquarters to St. Petersburg, in the Tampa Bay region.
Catsimatidis -- whose New York bona fides include a 2013 run for mayor, a local radio talk show, and cable ads in which he promotes his oceanfront Coney Island apartments in an unmistakable accent -- is also opening an office in St. Petersburg because he plans future projects there.
“We’ll probably allocate another $1 billion over the next three years,” he said.
His current $400 million project, taking up a full city block in downtown St. Petersburg, will be the tallest residential tower on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Catsimatidis said. Prices at the property, with such New York-typical amenities as a bocce court, fire pit and putting green, start at $800,000 for a one-bedroom. Construction will be complete in 2024.
The timing for a New York-style condo in the area is auspicious, with inventory flagging and buyers willing to overpay. The median price of condos in downtown St. Petersburg jumped 18% in the third quarter from a year earlier to $722,100, data from appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and Douglas Elliman Real Estate show. Condo listings plunged 59% to just 43.
For now, Florida appears to be a more-favorable market for new development over New York, where budget issues and rising crime are a concern, according to Catsimatidis.
“Let’s see how New York goes,” he said.
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