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Hotels find rooftop bars are very popular – Birchwood Inn in St Petersburg

Hard at work on Grayl's renovation on Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg Florida

Grayl's/Birchwood will have rooftop lounge


Chuck Prather is right on target with his renovation of  Grayl’s Hotel on Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg. When the hotel opens as Birchwood Inn – scheduled for around Christmas 2012 – one of the features will be a 4th floor rooftop bar. USA Today recently published an article: Hotels from NYC to L.A. open fancy, profitable rooftop bars  mentioning hotels across the country that are opening rooftop bars, taking advantage of prime real estate.

People like to eat and drink outside and like to enjoy nice views, whether it’s a city skyline, a waterfront or parks. The outside areas along Beach Drive are very popular: think Cassis, Bella Brava, Tryst, Parkshore Grill, Moon Under Water. All of these are along the sidewalk at street level. When Birchwood Inn opens at 340 Beach Drive NE in downtown St Petersburg with its 4th floor rooftop lounge it should offer nice views and breezes.

And remember – just a block away is The Simms Team at ALVA International, Inc real estate – across from the Museum of Fine Arts, with the red awning. We’re at 238 Beach Drive NE in downtown St Petersburg, serving your real estate needs for St Petersburg and Beyond.

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Tryst Gastro Lounge recognized by UrbanSpoon for great fine dining in Tampa Bay

Beach Drive downtown St Petersburg with Tryst Gastro Lounge and ALVA International, Inc real estate brokers

Tryst Gastro Lounge on Beach Drive

Congratulations to Tryst, our next door neighbor on Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg, and one of our favorite places to eat and drink. UrbanSpoon recently named Tryst as one of America’s 250 most popular high-end restaurants and was one of only four named in Tampa Bay – in the company of long-time favorites Bern’s Steak House and Mise-en-Place, both in Tampa. It’s especially significant since Tryst is the only selected restaurant in St Petersburg and it’s been open less than a year! Here’s another Tryst review with food photos. Open Table reviews that rate it 4-5 stars mark it great for outdoor dining, fit for foodies and a vibrant bar scene.

Inside or out it’s a great setting. Tryst’s inside/outside bar is a popular place to meet and greet, to see and be seen. Each of us on the Simms Team has our own list of favorite dishes at Tryst. Our only regret is that Tryst is no longer open for lunch on weekdays – since they do more business between midnight and 3 am. We understand, but miss our daily lunches there.

Outside seating at Tryst Gastro Lounge

Enjoy drinks at Tryst Gastro Lounge on Beach Drive

When you’re in downtown St Pete, stop at Tryst across from the Museum of Fine Arts.  It’s located at 240 Beach Drive NE, right next to ALVA International, Inc., the real estate agents under the Red Awning. Be sure to call The Simms Teamfor all your real estate needs.

Great Beach Drive location for Tryst

Renaud greets Beach Drive walkers

Outside Bar at Tryst on Beach Drive

Outside bar at Tryst

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St Pete takes America’s #1 Arts Destination again

Museum of Fine Arts St Petersburg presented a Botero exhibition

Botero visits Museum of Fine Arts St Petersburg

St Petersburg has been named America’s #1 Arts Destination for mid-sized cities for the third year in a row by AmericanStyle magazine. The magazine refers to St Pete’s “world famous arts institutions and top ranked galleries” as well as a “lively public and performing arts scene” and even makes reference to our great white sand beaches.

Mid-sized cities refers to those with a population of under 500,000 (so includes cities twice the size of St Pete).  Tampa placed #3 and Miami #7. Atlanta ranked #8.

Two of our neighboring cities took top positions in the small city category: Sarasota ranked #1, Bradenton #2 and Key West #4. They edged out previous top small cities of Sante Fe and Asheville.

It’s wonderful to live in a place with so many art choices surrounding us in the St Pete area. If you’d like to explore relocating to St Petersburg, contact the Simms Team at ALVA International, Inc on Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg.

City of St Pete talks about the arts  6/18/12

St Petersburg named #1 Arts Destination for second time.  6/10/11

Botero bronzes at Museum of Fine Arts.  12/21/09

Chihuly in downtown St Petersburg  5/7/11

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Agora is featured business in downtown St Petersburg


Agora offers Asian imports on Beach Drive in St Petersburg

Agora on Beach Drive

Agora, our neighbor at 232 Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg had a starring role yesterday. It was bustling in early morning as a video crew was filming Agora as a Featured Business for GROW Financial.

Agora features a variety of home decor and accessories, primarily from Asia. There’s also furniture, artwork, candles, jewelry, linens and lots of gift items. And if you need a house or condo for your Agora purchases, stop at the red awning in the same building at ALVA International, Inc real estate and have the Simms Team real estate agents help you find your St Petersburg area home. It’s fun to be downtown!

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Downtown St Pete: From Grayl’s to The Birchwood Inn

Grayls Hotel on Beach Drive in downtown St Petersburg is renovating

Grayl's Hotel downtown St Pete


Downtown St Pete is changing daily. One such change is the renovation of Grayl’s Hotel by Chuck Prather to The Birchwood Inn. Renovation hardly describes the changes as this photo shows – not even all of the shell remains.

Intending to retain the original style as well as the exterior walls, Prather plans to add a new fourth floor with 8,000 sq ft for events and meetings and a fifth floor open-air bar and lounge with a rooftop deck. The goal is to finish and reopen on November 15th – if they do, I’ll plan to have my birthday dinner there!

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St Pete one of top 10 US cities for Cycling

Pinellas Trail

Along the Pinellas Trail


St Petersburg has been named one of the top 10 cities for cycling in the United States. St Pete has relatively flat terrain and cycling infrastructure that includes 35 miles of bike trails and 75 miles of on-street bike lanes. The Pinellas Trail extends 47 miles from downtown St Petersburg to Tarpon Springs along an abandoned railroad right of way, through parks and along coastal areas and waterways.


A bike sharing program is set to launch in St Petersburg on July 4, 2012. It will start with 500 bikes.  There are several bicycle clubs in St Petersburg for those preferring groups and scheduled rides.

See Huffington Post article on St Petersburg as one of the 10 best American cities for cycling .


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St Petersburg Downtown Condos Market Update 2-16-12

Downtown St Petersburg condos and waterfront

Downtown St Petersburg Condos – Market Update 2-16-12

Frank Gregoire, guru appraiser, regularly attends the URBN Pitch marketing session for real estate agents, held weekly at BayWalk. He shares his research on neighborhoods, one by one.

Recently Gregoire shared his findings on downtown condos in St Petersburg. According to URBN pitch, he reported the following:

  • 76 active downtown St Pete condo listings as of 2/16/12
  • 22 of the 76 are distress sales (short sales, preforeclosures and bank owned)
  • 130 sold downtown St Pete condos in the last 12 months
  • Number of listings is constant.
  • Median sales price is up 7% in the last quarter for downtown St Pete condos
  • 11 month supply of listings

Gregoire also stated that condos listed at over $1 Million are starting to come back on the market.

For specific information on downtown condos, please contact The Simms Team at ALVA International, Inc. real estate.


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Do you need that extra bedroom in your downtown St Pete condo?

 Whether you’re looking for a 2 bedroom condo or a 3 bedroom condo in downtown St Petersburg, it’s worth asking whether you need that extra bedroom. If it’s for an office you’re going to be using everyday, or a craft/game room, or for a permanent resident, you probably do need it. My question is whether you need the extra guest bedroom. Is it for a family member who only comes for one week during the year? Is it for friends who may be there a couple of weeks a year? Consider the cost of buying the extra bedroom and then the additional maintenance cost and utilities. Compare that to the cost of putting them in a hotel nearby. There are downtown St Peterburg hotels in a variety of price ranges and several Bed & Breakfast inns. Some of the hotels are right next door to a condo.

Moving down from the north? Consider whether you want to be a hotel. Close friends will probably be welcome, but a series of acquaintances perhaps won’t be. Can you easily say No to a request to visit you? 

Perhaps you don’t want a smaller condo – you may still buy a 3 bedroom condo but make it into a 1 bedroom condo with 2 offices. Think outside the box on how you really want to use the condo you’re buying. Think smaller, think larger, think repurposing. 

Would some outside input help? A brainstorming session? Helping you with these things is just one of the things that you get from The Simms Team. Contact Sharon, Tami or Rob to meet with you early in the process, when you’re starting to explore whether you even want to move to a condo. 

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Is this a good time to downsize in St Petersburg Florida?

Downsizing in St Petersburg

 Yes, it’s a good time to downsize in St. Petersburg Florida. True, you won’t be able to sell your current home for as high a price as you could have in 2006-2007. I think it will be a long time before we see those prices again, and your cost of getting there may be much more than the difference in sales prices. You also should consider how the value of what you’re purchasing will change. 60% of buyers in the US are considering downsizing. If the demand is for smaller homes, the cost of those should rise faster than for larger homes.

Often downsizing means downpricing as well. If you’re going to spend only a portion of the proceeds from selling your current home, then you’ll have the difference to invest, save for a rainy day, or use for vacations or living expenses. Sometimes downsizing means decreasing the size of your home but increasing the amenities. In that case, you wouldn’t gain any cash, and may even spend more money on your new home.

There are still advantages to going smaller: your utility costs should decrease (you may even get a greener home that’s more efficient); your maintenance costs should decrease. If you also downsize your “stuff” you’ll have less to clean and maintain. It can be refreshing to clean out and live with less. You can increase your free time.

If you’re moving from a house to a condo, you no longer need to coordinate everything that needs to be done around your house and yard. You may save money because of group discounts on things like cable and internet. Common areas may provide activity space that you didn’t have or need before, such as a billiard room, a gym, library or card room.

If you’re thinking about downsizing but concerned about current property prices, let’s talk about your options. Call us or email us to set up a time to talk about it.


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Bring Apple to downtown St Pete!

BayWalk in downtown St Petersburg

 Bill Edwards plans to open up the front of Baywalk, rename it, and fill it with tenants we’ll want to patronize. One of the companies he’s talking with is Apple. Yes, yes, please bring Apple to St Pete. An Apple store would keeps locals coming back and attract visitors as well. 


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