Article Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times
By Susan Taylor Martin
Published January 3, 2017
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
But they are fighting what could be a losing battle to keep
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
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.
Condominium owners are battling new management of The
Slade from converting the homes into apartments located in the
Channelside district of Tampa.
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
Florida lawmakers are likely to readdress the issue when they meet next
"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 the law.
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.
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
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 spaces.''
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 his balcony.
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 Institute.
"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
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,'' 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
"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
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
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
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 here.''