Condo owners in Tampa’s The Slade At Channelside battle to keep it from going all rental
Tampa Bay Times
Susan Taylor Martin
29 December 2016
owners are battling new management of The Slade from converting the
homes into apartments located in the Channelside district of Tampa.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times
TAMPA — Built in what could become one of Tampa Bay's most dynamic
neighborhoods, The Slade At Channelside condominiums boast an eclectic
mix of unit owners.
There's Brandon McArthur, a baseball scout for the Los Angeles Angels.
And Anthony Arzola, a medical devices salesman. And Damon Mathis, a
colonel in the U.S. Army.
They and many others bought in The Slade — paying more than $200,000
for their units — because they liked its sleek look, its wide range of
amenities and its location in a prime area poised for massive
But they are fighting what could be a losing battle to keep their homes.
a company has acquired more than
85% of the units
A St. Petersburg-based company, Slade Owner LLC, has acquired more than
85 percent of the units and wants to make The Slade rental only. It
already is leasing out the units it owns and needs to acquire only a
few more to achieve its goal.
trying to bully them
To that end, the holdouts charge, Slade Owner is trying to bully them
into selling. They say the company arbitrarily reassigned long-held
parking spots and has slapped them with assessments, demanding quick
payment in full. And they say it has threatened them with the
possibility of more assessments unless they accept what they call
"ridiculously'' low offers to sell.
Arzola, who once lived with roommates to save money for a place of his
own, recalls being "so excited'' to buy a Slade condo in 2013.
"I thought I had made a great decision,'' he said. "Then come to find
out just two years after living there that an investment company can
just come in and try to kick me out of my home to make a quick profit
was a shocker.''
It's a shock felt by thousands of other Florida condo owners as
investors, eager to capitalize on the strong demand for rentals, take
advantage of a 2007 state law that made it easier to convert
condominiums to apartments. And due to a recent state appeals court
ruling, owners who don't want to sell might not be helped by a 2015 law
that was supposed to give them some protections.
Florida lawmakers are likely to readdress the issue when they meet next year.
"In the wake of recent court decisions that are allowing these bulk
owners to circumvent the will of the legislature with the 2015 law to
protect homeowners, we're going to take an early look to make sure that
property rights are adequately protected in the state of Florida,''
said Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Pinellas County Republican who introduced
Until 2007, major repairs or termination of a condo association
required the approval of 100 percent of the unit owners. But as
foreclosures and two active hurricane seasons left many units damaged
and vacant, the Legislature decided that was too high a threshold.
the owners of 80% of the units could
terminate an association if no more than 10% of owners were
In 2007, it amended the law so that 80 percent of owners could
terminate an association if no more than 10 percent of owners were
opposed. That meant one or two recalcitrant owners couldn't block the
will of the majority. But as thousands of Floridians lost their homes
and the demand for rentals soared, investors realized that the new law
could help them convert condos to apartments.
The foreclosure crisis made The Slade condos ideal candidates to become The Slade Apartments, as they already are being called.
Mathis was stationed in Tampa when construction began around 2006
during the peak of the boom. He liquidated his retirement account and
put $46,000 down on a unit then priced at nearly $480,000.
"I wasn't buying for what Channelside looked like in 2006,'' he said, "but what I thought it was going to look like in 2020.''
Then Mathis was transferred to Atlanta and the market collapsed. In
2009 he made a desperate call to The Slade's real estate agent.
"I was about to say, 'you guys can keep the $46,000, I'm about a minute
away from going bankrupt, my house in Gibsonton is underwater, my
stocks have crashed,''' he recalled. "She goes, 'Damon, we're so glad
to hear from you, we're re-pricing the condos.' So I ended up buying
for $236,000 (a condo) with two bedrooms, a den and two parking
Many other buyers, though, backed out and left the developer stuck with
unsold units. In 2011, a South Florida company bought more than 200
units at a foreclosure auction, rented them out, then sold them last
year to Slade Owner LLC for $40 million, records show.
Slade Owner has continued to buy individually owned units, including
two in November. It easily meets the 80 percent ownership requirement
but Martin and others who don't want to sell still make up more than 10
percent of the ownership — enough to block termination of the
condominium association though just barely.
Mathis, now stationed at the Pentagon, said he was offered $248,000 but
wants to make The Slade his permanent home when he retires in July.
After paying closing costs and real estate commissions — sellers must
use and pay Slade Owner's designated agent — "I would have ended up
with $5,000 or $10,000 over what I paid but that's not the point,''
Mathis said. "Not only is this an idiotic offer but I want to live
here. My condo looks right over the Amalie Arena and my niece is
counting on me moving so she can live with us and go to college here.''
Arzola, who sells medical devices, was offered $245,000. He paid
$226,000 for his unit but said he has spent thousands of dollars on
upgrades including hardwood floors, ceiling fans, shelving and tile on
Moreover, he doesn't think the offer reflects the growing popularity of
the Channelside district, close to downtown Tampa and in the planning
stages of a $3 billion redevelopment by a partnership that includes
Tampa Bay Lighting Owner Jeff Vinik. Eventually, the area could be home
to an office tower, luxury hotel, dozens of stores and restaurants and
the University of South Florida's College of Medicine and Heart
"What they're offering doesn't allow us to move to a comparable
apartment in the area,'' Arzola said. "My choice would be to never move
because I moved here for a reason. I like the atmosphere, I like living
in Channelside and I foresee it in the future being one of the most
attractive places to live not only in Tampa but in Florida.''
Arzola and other dissident owners said the company that now owns most
of the units also is using special assessments as a tactic to get them
to sell. Arzola's assessment came to $2,300, payable in full in 30 days.
"It was tough,'' he said. "Most assessments, they give you a year to pay them off.''
McArthur, a star baseball player at the University of Florida who now
scouts for the Angels, said he and another owner, Pittsburgh Pirates
catcher Francisco Cervelli, were in the lobby one day when a
representative of Slade Owner issued a warning.
He basically threatened us the whole time
"He basically threatened us the whole time,'' McArthur recalled, "He
said, 'you will be getting assessments, this place will be turning into
an apartment complex, if you don't sell your place right now I've heard
rumors that they really wil try to low-ball you.'"
Gregory Williams of Cardinal Point Real Estate, which is negotiating
sales on behalf of Slade Owner, said the company has fully complied
with state law. Prices being offered "significantly exceed'' the
average square foot price paid by buyers before Slade Owner acquired
its units last year, he said.
"It should be noted,'' Williams added, "that only approximately 3
percent of the residential units are reflected as homesteaded or
owner-occupied. The vast majority of remaining individual unit owners
are investors and acquired their units on a speculative basis in 2010,
2011 and 2012 when The Slade was distressed.''
But McArthur, Arzola and Martin note that they aren't investors and
that they bought their units before or after that time period, when
prices were higher.
In response to the unintended effects of the 2007 law, the Legislature
passed another law last year that increased protections for condo
owners facing the forced sale of their units. Among them: Homesteaded
owners who bought from the developer must be reimbursed for the price
they originally paid, while owners who bought later must be paid the
fair market value of their units
In a case involving a South Florida condominium, though, Florida's
Third District Court of Appeal issued a ruling in November that could
embolden some bulk owners to ignore the new law's protections for
owners who don't want to sell. That worries The Slade holdouts, who
have hired an attorney and plan to keep on fighting.
"I have been saving most of my working career and lived with roommates
until I finally saved enough money to buy my first home at The Slade,''
said Arzola, 35. "I have a beautiful condo facing the salt water pool
with a great view of downtown Tampa. I don't want to be anywhere but