May 22, 2024 - News

Why 400 Central in downtown St. Petersburg looks like that

The rounded front of an under-construction skyscraper framed by two trees.

Kathryn laid down on the sidewalk to take this photo. If you saw her, no you didn't. Photo: Kathryn Varn/Axios

Look toward downtown St. Petersburg from most directions, and you'll see it: the innards of a rising skyscraper with curved edges and a massive diagonal footprint, resembling a cruise ship dropped in the middle of the city.

  • Turns out that's very much on purpose, the architect told Axios.

Why it matters: With 400 Central set to be the tallest building on Florida's west coast, its appearance will play a prominent role downtown and in the city's skyline for generations to come.

The big picture: The 46-story building, which upon completion will house 301 luxury condos along with retail and office space, is the vision of billionaire real estate developer John Catsimatidis.

  • While he and his company, Red Apple Group, are based in New York, Catsimatidis has spent years visiting family in St. Pete.
  • He's come to love the city and wanted to build something beautiful and unique, he told Axios.

That's where architect Bernardo Fort-Brescia comes in.

Behind the scenes: To design 400 Central, Fort-Brescia tapped into the building's surroundings.

  • The rounded corners — a departure from the boxy high-rises that have popped up downtown in recent years — make the building feel almost like a boat or an island, a nod to St. Pete as a water city, he said.
  • Its diagonal placement is meant to maximize the view, Fort-Brescia said. Residents will be able to look straight down Central Avenue to the waterfront from their windows or the observation deck on the top floor.
  • That placement also opens up the Central-facing side of the building for retail and restaurants on the ground floor: "We didn't want a car-centric Central Avenue," he said. "We wanted a human-centric Central Avenue."

What he's saying: The features altogether give the building "a narrative," he said.

  • "We didn't do just another rectangle or another triangle. It has a reason to be."
A rendering showing a high-rise building with rounded corners.
A rendering of 400 Central showing the northeast corner of the building. Space for shops and restaurants can be seen on the bottom floor along Central Avenue. Photo: Courtesy of Arquitectonica
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