Tampa Bay Times sells its parking lot for $$$ — and throws in a warm and fuzzy story to seal the deal

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On Thursday, the Times Publishing Company sold the property which is now the Tampa Bay Times’ southernmost parking lot — an entire block bounded by Fourth and Fifth Streets and Third and Fourth Avenues South– to the NRP Group, a Cleveland-based developer

NRP Group announced Friday that it plans to build on the property a 300-unit, upscale apartment complex within blocks of Bayfront Medical Center, All Children’s Hospital and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

According to a story in the Times, NRP and Times Publishing Co. signed a purchase agreement Thursday, with closing scheduled for Aug. 1. Neither side would reveal the sale price, but the land is valued for tax purposes at $2.8 million.

In addition to whatever NRP paid for the property, they also received a warm and fuzzy story in Saturday’s edition of the Tampa Bay Times about how this project is “only one” of its kind in the Tampa Bay area.

Also included in the story are details which read as if they are straight out of a real estate prospectus:

“The NRP project will feature high ceilings, upscale flooring and trendy kitchens, plus common amenities like a swimming pool, coffee bar and fitness center.”

There are also authoritative quotes which sound as if the Times is still trying to convince the buyer what kind of good deal they received:

A full-fledged apartment complex “makes tremendous sense,” said Buddy Sauter, a commercial real estate broker in St. Petersburg.

“We’ve seen the condos fill up like you wouldn’t believe. Fusion has done quite well. I’m seeing strong recovery broadly through small and medium-size businesses.

“They are going to make a lot of money, bring a lot of residents to St. Petersburg, and that’s going to help every business downtown.”

Of course, the real question about this story is where will all of the Times employees park now that the lot has been sold? Not to worry. By contract, the Times will retain control of 300 spaces in the apartment’s four-story garage, which will allow the newspaper to meet parking code requirements for its headquarters building two blocks to the north.

Well, that seals it.

At least the Times didn’t sell to a Malaysian gambling company, like their brethren at the Miami Herald did with their property.

Still, it’s hard to wonder if the Times, not always the loudest booster of real estate development in downtown, would be as enthusiastic about a similar project if they were not on the receiving end of some much-needed cash.

Oh, and one last thing, this sale just added a gallon of gasoline to the conspiratorial fires which suggest the Times can’t wait to unload their headquarters in St. Pete and relocate to Tampa

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.