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Developer keeps Pinellas projects percolating

“Eighty-five thousand cars go by ... every day,” Carlos Yepes says of his Wawa project on the southwest corner of Ulmerton and Starkey roads in Largo. The site opens this week.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

“Eighty-five thousand cars go by ... every day,” Carlos Yepes says of his Wawa project on the southwest corner of Ulmerton and Starkey roads in Largo. The site opens this week.

If there's a term equal to "one-armed paper hanger" or "chief cook and bottle washer" for the commercial development business, it would apply to Carlos Yepes. The head of Pinellas Park-based Belleair Development Group has nine projects in various stages going on in southern Pinellas County.

From luxury condos on Snell Isle to a Wawa in Largo, the deep-pocketed Yepes has deals and buildings of all sizes percolating.

"I'm not sure if there are any other developers with a greater number of pending projects," said Philip Lazzara, zoning official for the city of St. Petersburg. Lazzara praised the look of the new Regions Bank at 510 Central Ave. that Yepes developed for how well it fits with surrounding downtown context.

Belleair is using bank financing for most of its projects. In many cases, Yepes puts the land under contract and markets it to retailers.

"When we have a definite plan it is very financeable," he said.

Elsewhere, Yepes owns the shuttered Arby's at 3900 Fourth St. N. His investment group bought it about a year ago for $1.3 million with plans to close the fast food restaurant and develop it for a new use.

"Nothing is set yet. We are working with a number of national accounts to put them in there," said Yepes, 55. Belleair also bought the triplex behind Arby's for $165,000 in November. He plans to tear both structures down and develop a build-to-suit project for either a restaurant or medical group.

Yepes likes Fourth Street. He owns the former bike store at 3000 Fourth St. N and is about to renovate the property. An undisclosed national tenant will take up the space after a roof modification is completed. Yepes also has plans for the Pizza Hut at 4001 Fourth St. N at some point this year.

"We are trying to work something out to redevelop it and put a Pizza Hut in another location or maybe keep it at the same property. We may tear it down and build a retail building," he said.

Construction should start soon on a build-to-suit project on 22nd Avenue N across from Mazzaro's Italian Market. Advance Auto Parts will be there along with a 1,600-square-foot Dunkin' Donuts and a car wash. The site will include 4,400 square feet of retail space that is yet to be leased. Yepes has the property under contract.

Let's see. What else? Oh yeah, construction just started on a Buffalo Wild Wings that Yepes is developing at 4705 Park Blvd. across from Shoppes at Park Place, right next to the Cheddar's restaurant he built last year. He bought the Buffalo Wild Wings site for $1.1 million in January.

The chain, called "B-Dubs" by regulars, is known for 21 sauces and an extensive multimedia system for watching sports. It opened its 1,000th store in January.

A better known name in these parts is IHOP. Yepes is building one of those at 4691 Park Blvd. next to Publix. He is also planning a 7,200-square-foot retail building at the same corner that he will subdivide and lease.

Elsewhere in Pinellas Park, Yepes has a contract on the Scott Buick building that closed in 2006 at U.S. 19 and 49th Street N.

"We will probably make it a retail development with two or three boxes or maybe another car dealership," he said.

The Wawa that Yepes is developing at the southwest corner of Ulmerton and Starkey roads in Largo will open this week. It is next to a Neighborhood Walmart that Yepes also developed. There's an empty pad next to it that's available for another retailer.

"Eighty-five thousand cars go by there every day," Yepes said.

Along the less traveled route of Snell Isle Boulevard, demand is steady for condos at Water Club at Snell Isle. Twenty-five percent of the 95 units are sold. The two nine-story towers should be completed by late June. Two models on the third floor are almost done. Construction on 11 townhomes just started.

The homes, which will have two bedrooms and a den, start in the low $500,000 price range.

Belleair is developing the project with West Palm Beach-based Kolter Group. They are spending a combined $30 million.

"We are getting a lot of interest," Yepes said. "We hope the season will bring us some good traffic."

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com.

Developer keeps Pinellas projects percolating 03/10/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 2:54pm]
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