The following content is featured in the Orlando & North Florida Spring 2016 edition of The Who’s Who in Building & Construction.
High-Rise Design Soars to New Heights in Downtown St. Pete
The signature of a city is etched in its skyline. In the current panoramic view of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., the buildings appear to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in height. Adding visual variety to the landscape is the ONE St. Petersburg, a 41-story, mixed-use project currently under construction in the heart of St. Pete’s business district.
Stefano Falbo, Vice President and Associate Principal at SB Architects, is the project designer responsible for taking ONE St. Petersburg from a simple conversation to design development and ultimately to construction documents. This soaring high-rise will stand 75 feet above the city’s two tallest buildings, making it the tallest structure in Pinellas County.
When Stefano pauses to consider his involvement in this endeavor, the one word that comes to mind is fulfilling. As a seasoned architect, he is no stranger to projects of this nature. A native of Italy, Stefano began his professional journey in the early 1990s working on home renovations, and progressed from there to work on multi-purpose residential properties. Although his architectural expertise is not limited to the mixed-use sector, it was his experience in this area that influenced his transition to SB Architects. “I joined the firm in early 2004 to work on a mixed-use project on Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami,” says Stefano. For the last 12 years, Stefano has enjoyed being part of a team-oriented culture that works and plays hard, and supports its members.
“The ultimate goal for the architect is to do something that is going to be there for quite some time for people to enjoy.” – Stefano Falbo, Vice President and Associate Principal at SB Architects
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WORK ENVIRONMENT
Stefano’s decision to remain at SB Architects is fueled not only by the company’s exceptional workplace atmosphere, but also its first-rate status as a global design firm. “SB Architects has an international imprint. We have been recognized for having a worldwide reputation of excellence and leadership in design for destination resorts, mixed-use projects, and even lower-scale projects such as custom homes. There is always an effort to produce stimulating products and develop innovative design,” he says.
SB Architects has offices in San Francisco, Miami and Shenzhen, China, and a client list that spans the globe. They have been in the industry for 55 years and, although their team of 90 architects has the expertise of a large firm, they use a personable, hands-on design approach typically found in a boutique practice.
Stefano also values the international makeup of his colleagues. “We have people from the U.S., Turkey, the islands, and I’m from Italy. All a different mixture of people and talented architects,” comments Stefano. It’s this environment—and the new challenges that provide opportunities for critical thinking—that motivates him to soar to new heights in his field, much like the structures he designs.
Stefano has found the key to maintaining passion in the AEC industry. “Try to search for better designs and new solutions in contemporary life, and excel in what you do,” he says. “Do not fall into simply taking something off the shelf or using superficial thinking.” Industry professionals must always put forth their best efforts, regardless of the project or the size, he adds. “The ultimate goal for the architect is to do something that is going to be there for quite some time for people to enjoy.”
SEEING THE BIG PICTURE
At SB Architects, it is important to keep the end-user in mind at all times, along with the developer’s goals and the visual aesthetics of the building. Stefano took all these things into account when designing ONE St. Petersburg.
The property site is just steps away from Tampa Bay, so it was important that the layout incorporate unobstructed views of the blue water. The lines between indoor and outdoor space are blurred to create fluid movement from the front door to the balcony and continuing on to the bay. This design concept is achieved by using transparent materials such as glass; floor-to-ceiling glass windows, sliding glass doors and glass railings on the balcony serve to unify spaces.
Corridors can be barriers that interfere with the view. This was another element Stefano took into consideration when developing the plans.
“You can open your entry door and have a glimpse of the spectacular views right where you stand. Our designs eliminate or minimize corridor circulation, creating greater living space,” states Stefano. He also took measures to make sure the master bedroom in each unit and the living spaces had water views. When owners experience their first sunrise from their bedroom, they will further appreciate the careful thought put into the structure’s layout.
“Try to search for better designs and new solutions in contemporary life, and excel in what you do.” – Stefano Falbo, Vice President and Associate Principal at SB Architects
Sustainable elements will also be incorporated throughout the multi-use building, and include energy-efficient appliances, high-rated insulation, LED lighting and highly efficient irrigation systems for the pool deck and planters.
COMMUNITY INFLUENCES GREAT ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS
Stefano is quick to point out that ONE St. Petersburg is not just a residential property; it will also contain about 17,000 square feet of retail space in addition to hotel space. Although the hotel’s design was done by another firm, SB Architects worked with them to achieve cohesion throughout the property. Ultimately, ONE St. Petersburg is an expansion of the downtown community and will potentially become one of the city’s landmarks.
Slated for completion in 2018, the project is anticipated to boost employment and generate millions in sales tax, producing many immediate and long-term economic benefits to the city and surrounding area. During construction, construction employment and labor wages will generate over $90 million (primarily for Tampa Bay area businesses); approximately $2.5 million will stem from building and hotel impact fees. Building materials will yield about $3.6 million in sales tax. The mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman, says: “Not only will ONE St. Petersburg enhance our thriving downtown, but the jobs and [tax revenue stream] it will create will only increase the financial health of our city.”
Post-construction, the city’s annual property tax revenue stream will swell to over $5.5 million, and also increased hotel bed impact tax earnings (upon stabilization) will yield approximately $500,000 each year.