Once Known as the Land of Hooters and ‘Magic Mike,’ Tampa Has Discovered Its Cool Factor

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But lately, something has shifted. “I haven’t been getting it as much as I used to,” says Mr. Pascual, referring to the Florida Man jokes he has endured. “People are coming to Tampa more frequently for conventions or to catch a Tom Brady game. Now it’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve been in your hometown, and it was great—amazing restaurants, good-looking people, looks like a lot of fun!’ ,

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Mr. Pascual paid $2 million for the two-bedroom condominium in 2020 while plans for Edition were still on the drawing board.

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Mr. Brady, the celebrity quarterback who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in 2021, may have given the city a boost. But Tampa’s transformation has been driven by real-estate developers, who are reshaping its urban landscape as an open-air, live-work-play-ground.

Water Street Tampa, a $3.5 billion-plus planned district, on a 56-acre stretch of waterfront that had been mostly parking lots, is wrapping up its first phase of construction in the shadow of Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team . The Strategic Property Partners development is a joint venture between the Lightning’s owner, Jeff Vinik, and Bill Gates’s Cascade Investment.

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Pedestrian-friendly with 45-foot-wide sidewalks, bike lanes and plazas shaded by live oaks and bald cypress trees, Water Street combines upscale, amenity-stuffed residential towers and terraced offices with shops, an outdoor food court and green spaces.

Four miles to the west, Midtown Tampa, a new 22-acre, mixed-use, multiphase development by the Bromley Companies, has revitalized a drab section of Dale Mabry Highway. The first phase, completed in 2021 at a cost of $500 million, has created a lively enclave with a mix of apartments, offices, coffee shops and ice cream parlors, along with dog parks, a 3-acre lake and a grassy commons where people gather for Trivia Nights, live music and free yoga sessions.

Meanwhile, designer-brand condominium towers are sprouting across Tampa faster than the bay’s native swamp lilies. Virage Bayshore, a 24-story high-rise, with 71 apartments priced from $1 million to $5 million, sold out before it opened in 2020.

Farther north on Bayshore Boulevard, overlooking Hillsborough Bay, the first tower of the two-tower Ritz-Carlton Residences, Tampa is under construction. An 11,000-square-foot penthouse went into contract for $11.6 million in October. Although it won’t be completed until 2024, the first tower’s 89 condominiums, with a starting price of $1.65 million, and 12 townhouse-style villas have sold out. Sales of condos at the second tower have begun.

Closings also have begun at The Residences at the Tampa Edition, on Water Street, a boutique hotel with 37 condominiums priced between $2 million and $8 million—all sold.

More luxury condos are in the pipeline. In May, Kolter Urban filed construction plans for One Tampa, a 56-story tower with 5,000-square feet of ground-floor retail space, 311 condominiums and a two-floor amenity deck that will break ground in 2023. Prices haven’t been announced.

Pendry Tampa, a hotel with 207 private residences from $1 million to over $11 million, will open on the Tampa Riverwalk in 2025. There have been more than $100 million in sales to date, according to a representative for Montage International, Pendry’s parent company.

No one has kept a closer eye on Tampa’s accelerating luxury market than Mr. Pascual. A fan of the Edition boutique hotel chain, he paid $2 million for a two-bedroom apartment on the Tampa Edition’s 15th floor in 2020, while it was still on the drawing board. “I needed to get my hands on one,” he said. “I was the first person to buy pretty much in the entire building.”

In late June, he and his designer went for a final walk-through of the newly completed condo, which has views of the city skyline, the waterfront and the Amalie Arena. He hopes to have it ready by September. “All the furniture is going to be customized, from Italy,” he said.

Mr. Pascual will have to wait a little longer to plan the décor of his second Tampa home: a three-story, three-bedroom villa with bay views, its own elevator and a terrace with a private plunge pool at the Ritz-Carlton Residences that he bought for a little over $2 million in 2021. He said he has no intention of flipping either luxury-brand residence.

“It’s perfect for when I come into town to watch Buccaneers and Lightning games, and visit my parents,” he said. “I can see myself going back and forth between the two, having that more homestyle vibe at the Ritz and then spending the weekend at Edition, smack dab in the middle of the city.”

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