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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Just when it seems the only residential condominium sales in Florida involve either foreclosures, auctions or bulk transactions, one local developer is trying a different approach. Signature Place, a 36-story condo tower near the city’s waterfront, is offering 25% markdowns on its luxury units.

Joel Cantor, the Tampa-based developer who built Signature Place on a former US government building lot at 100 First Ave. S. in Downtown St. Petersburg, negotiated the discount with his lending group, led by Fifth Third Bank. He estimates taking a $60-million hit on the project, which totaled $170 million, though he says it beats having to go to court.

“We want to get the building populated, as does the bank,” Cantor tells GlobeSt.com. “I want to do right by our customers, and do something nobody else has done.”

More than 200 units in Signature Place, which ranged in price from $300,000 to over $3 million prior to construction, are now available for below building cost, according to Cantor, who has roughly 20 years of development experience. New contracts reflecting discounts are being negotiated with current depositors, some of whom bought as far back as 2006, as well as prospective owners who still desire high-rise urban homes. Cantor says it took numerous phone calls, e-mails and meetings over the past year to get lenders to agree to the latest deal.

“We’re close to all our buyers. Everybody knows the market has gone down,” Cantor says. “The majority of these people want to go forward. They just want a better price.”

Local brokers are watching to see whether Cantor’s approach will work to reduce the statewide condo surplus any better than, say, bulk sales, which are being attempted in Miami. Lately it appears there are more foreclosures and lawsuits involving condo contracts than completed sales around the Sunshine State.

John Stone, a veteran multifamily investment broker with Clearwater-based Colliers Arnold, says only six bulk-condo transactions have been completed in the Tampa Bay market over the past two years. “The lender’s primary goal is to liquidate these troubled assets for the highest price,” he says.

Cantor shares that same goal, along with trying to maintain his solid reputation as a longtime developer. “I always try to do things right,” he says, “and I don’t give up.”

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