Bob Glaser


Bob Glaser, Smith & Associates

Rising: Bob Glaser talks building a next-tier city, motivation and his coming out story

On this episode of SPx, Joe sits down with Bob Glaser, president and CEO of Tampa Bay real estate titan, Smith & Associates. They compare St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District with Miami’s Wynwood and talk possibilities of the Tropicana Field site. Glaser shares his expertise on hot topics like downtown development, housing, and what St. Pete needs to become a next-tier city (it’s probably not what you think). The conversation gets personal when Glaser shares his story: from humble beginnings to the motivations behind his hard work and philanthropy, and his own coming out story.

Key Insights

  • Today’s guest: Bob Glaser, CEO of Smith & Associates Real Estate. He’s the man behind the One building, at 41-stories and over 450 feet, it is St. Pete’s tallest building.
  • Glaser says the One building has attracted many new residents to St. Pete, “There’s a lot of folks moving from the East Coast, Midwest and taking residence here, brand-new to the area. I think that’ll bring some neat vitality with having a whole bunch of new people in town.”
  • On turnover at One, as the project begins to fill: “At the most right now, we’re seeing about 12 of 200+ units that may come back to the market and those that were coming back, I believe, are already have people sort of raising their hands interested.”
  • Biggest need for St. Pete’s downtown: “We need hotels. I’d love if we get a five-star or at least establish a five-star, and perhaps with the recent sale of the Vinoy to the Glazer Group in partnership at $186 million, that will signal opportunity for that to convert over to a five-star resort.”
  • Why are five-start hotels important to a city? Glaser says it’s an economic development strategy. “That will bring more people organizationally that could be moving their companies here to Tampa Bay. They stay in these properties, they see the market, they enjoy it a little bit differently and say, ‘I could live here. My company could be here. What a nice place is this.'”
  • Could the Tropicana Field site be St. Pete’s Water Street? “We realized the power of what Vinik and the Gates group is doing their, bringing businesses in. We’ve had several meetings bringing them to visit over here to look at what the Trop could be like because they are here, they’re very viable partner could be for the city. Also, to see how to match up that land into a similar development is going on in those 60 acres in Tampa.”
  • Trop site: “I know the mayor’s got some great plans but what’s important to try to not piecemeal an idea but to put that land in a similar kind of full development cycle – how much affordable housing can get in there, how much community can be in there, how much of a park, how much of a, perhaps a convention center hotel, and then business. How could it serve Johns Hopkins? How could it serve any of the defense at MacDill?”
  • West of downtown development, Glaser sees a lot of potential for the Warehouse Arts District – a place he says could look like Wynwood in Miami.
  • One solution to housing affordability in St. Pete so far has been apartments. According to Glaser, 3,000+ units have been built in St. Pete to date with more on the way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those apartments meet the needs of those struggling to find truly affordable housing.
  • Smith & Associates was founded on philanthropic principles. Glaser continues and expands those values today: “It’s great to sell homes, it’s great to bring people new to these markets, as we do in like this new building One. But isn’t it just as nice to make sure Bob Devin Jones’s studio 620 is being viable, that he can create Shakespeare in the park for free, and give everybody a place to see and folks to have their arts abilities be exhibited?”
  • Development from downtown to the beaches: “When I was driving back 1st Ave. South the other morning from Pasadena, looking at the housing stock on the left side which is really the commercial side and it’s mostly 800 square-foot homes that are quite aged, so I suspect with the city, and I’m not quite sure how dense that zoning is, but it becomes a really good area for supporting commercial.”
  • Major needs for St. Pete: 1) Transportation – “s much as we can do to make it easier for folks not to have cars and be able to get to different segments of the market like into… Can they live downtown here and get to Raymond James Park up there where there’s 30,000 more employees?”
  • 2) Education – “What are we doing for our schools in helping bring up our neighborhoods that surround the city? And encourage a little bit more input from the business community to help the school systems and really show some dedication to the communities both South of the city and any the fringe schools that surround the urban core.”
  • Glaser publicly came out as a gay man 12 years ago, with a wife and three children living in Tampa. That was part of what prompted him to move to St. Petersburg.
  • Glaser’s shoutout: Katee Tully & Helen Levine – the Tully-Levine Gallery Dedication took place at the ArtsXchange in November.

“It’s tremendous to think about the idea that this city has this much land, the most important city on the west coast, having the beaches, and the bay, and this infrastructure so close by. There’ll be a lot of companies, I think, would find this a great destination.”