First came the diners and hockey fans looking for a casual waterside hangout spot at Sparkman Wharf. Then came the students and faculty to the state-of-the-art USF Morsani College of Medicine, along with the guests and locals to the renovated Marriott Water Street and new JW Marriott.
Finally, with the debut of Heron, Water Street Tampa is welcoming residents to the neighborhood.
The dual 26-story and 21-story towers opened at the end of March, making it Strategic Property Partners’ (the developer behind the 56-acre, $3.5 billion Water Street Tampa project) ﬁrst completed residential building. Its split-tower podium design, created by the New York architecture ﬁrm Kohn Perdersen Fox, rises out of the southwest corner of the Channelside and Beneﬁcial drives to capitalize on the area’s natural assets and access to nearby hot spots.
“There was already a vibrancy to the area, namely with the arena being here and the Tampa Bay History Center,” says Danny Mora, SPP’s senior manager of development. “Heron is pretty uniquely positioned where it sits to capture that vibrancy and add to it.”
Inside, the 420 apartments include condo-level luxury touches that are new to Tampa’s rental market, including Fisher & Paykel appliances, Caesarstone quartz countertops, Symmons plumbing ﬁxtures and a built-in Nest thermostat system. They were also designed to take advantage of Tampa’s natural environment, with expansive balconies and ﬂoor-to-ceiling glass to let in as much natural light as possible — both of which tie back to Water Street Tampa’s overall focus on health, wellness and connection to natural elements as part of its WELL district certiﬁcation.
Another part of Tampa that Heron embraces? The Riverwalk. It’s no surprise downtown residents love it. The Tampa Downtown Partnership recently released the results of its 2020 Worker Resident Survey, and 51% of residents said the Tampa Riverwalk was downtown’s greatest asset. Another 17% said access to the water topped their list of beneﬁts. So one of Heron’s biggest amenities, Mora says, is the fact that it opens directly onto the waterfront path.
“That’s a natural amenity,” he explains. “Residents can leave the lobby and start a jog. That’s the ﬁrst thing they can do with their day, or they can, in the evening, walk across the street to Amalie Arena or Sparkman Wharf. The location is really well-positioned compared to some other projects in the area.”
A major piece of Heron’s market-high price tag (current rents start around $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom) is its service component. The property contracts with the New York-based luxury concierge company LIVunLtd to provide 24-hour concierge services and assistance with everything from pet sitting recommendations and home chef services to appointments and reservations and programming within the building.
“I think how we’re truly going to differentiate ourselves in the market is the level of service that we offer to the residents,” Mora says. “Whatever the residents need, [the concierge is] there to be their liaison. So we’re really providing condo-level service to the multifamily platform.”
While other cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C., are seeing rents bottom out or just begin to tick back up, Downtown Tampa’s average rent is up 8% over last year, according to the commercial real estate data ﬁrm CoStar. The early pandemic fears that renters might not want to live in multifamily towers like Heron have not born out in Tampa.
In 2020, the Tampa Bay area gained a net of nearly 50,000 new residents. A study by the data ﬁrm Orbital Insight found that Tampa was the top destination for Americans who moved between March and October 2020, and it was the third-most popular place for people leaving New York City speciﬁcally. Many of the area’s newest residents have hailed from regions in the Northeast and Midwest.
Heron opened with a quarter of its 420 units leased, above SPP’s projections. Mora says that in both this building and throughout Water Street, interest has come both from current Tampa Bay area residents and people moving from larger markets.
“People are getting used to spending more time in their apartment, so having access to that expansive natural light and that expansive outdoor space inside of your unit [is important],” Mora says. “If you’re coming from a different market, where you may have been more space-constrained, being able to come to the area and get a two-bedroom or two-bedroom plus den unit really allows you more more living space and also a secondary space to maybe work from home, given the new trends in the workforce.”
It’s expected to attract more attention in the coming months with the opening of the Publix-owned Greenwise (slated for this summer), which will feature a revamped design for the brand, and additional retail, like Three Corners pizza, after that.
“We’re excited for residents not just to be in the building, but also to be going inside of the Greenwise space, as well as the neighboring community,” Mora says.
Heron is the beginning of the contextualization of the long-simmering Water Street Project, one that is now well on its way to fruition, he adds.
“We have a long-term vision for the project and the district as a whole,” Mora says. “So some of those minor details that you might not notice speciﬁcally [now] will really come together in a way that will just create a unique experience.”