Meet John Catsimatidis, the self-made billionaire shaping the future of St. pete

From a Greek immigrant kid being raised in Harlem, to a billionaire about to live in the penthouse of St. Pete’s tallest tower, the story of John Catsimatidis is an incredible one. It’s also one that is shaping the future of what St. Pete will look like.

The President, CEO and Founder of Red Apple Group, Catsimatidis is the man behind 400 Central, the record-setting tower now under construction in downtown St. Petersburg. And while some in the city eschew praising developers, Catsimatidis brings an authenticity to the project that stands out.

Namely, this isn’t just a money grab. He and his company have plenty of that, anyway (although they certainly still see this as a successful investment). Instead, the 515-foot tower serves as a symbol of love for the city, and the friends and family inside it that Catsimatidis so treasures.

Over the many decades the self-made man has spent building an empire (a journey that began with a young Catsimatidis paying his way through college working in a grocery store), he has also been a constant visitor to St. Pete – all in the name of family.

“My wife’s mother and father came down from the north 42 years ago,” he explained. “So we’ve been visiting for the last 42 years… We have a lot of roots here and a lot of friends here. We’ve made a lot of friends the last 40 years.”

Soon, instead of visiting friends and family, he’ll be able to have friends and friends come visit him. Catsimatidis decided to buy the penthouse at 400 Central for himself so he can move down. It’s just another step in his plan to invest his next billion dollars into the state of Florida, much of it right here in St. pete

And when the gleaming tower opens, a subtle reminder of the reason it even exists will be on display – a statue of Catsimatidis’ mother-in-law, right at home in the lobby. That local love is part of what will inspire the public (and public facing) portions of the tower. The design team actually incorporated elements of the old cheese grater building when imagining the tower; the old clock tower that was on the corner is being repaired and will again take its place on the street; and the bottom floors of 400 Central will be host to rotating exhibits from local artists.

For the project, Catsimatidis and Red Apple have also made sure not to spare any expense. In a roundtable with reporters last weekend, he explained the planning process, and his emphasis on picking the best contractor – not the cheapest one – in order to get the building he dreamed of.

“I want to build a building that I’m proud of,” he said. “When I look at it, I want to say ‘wow, I want to live there.'”

Soon enough, he will. And from his penthouse, he’ll be close to the portion of the tower his team advised him against – the top floor observation deck. Hearing Catsimatidis describe it, it’s easy to see his romanticism of St. pete

“I want an observatory on the roof where you can lay back and look up at the sky and look at the stars and fall in love again,” he said. “I want something that I’ll be proud of and my family will be proud of. I don’t care if we have to spend a few million more dollars.”

It bears noting, of course, that this isn’t likely to be his last passion project in St. pete Catsimatidis told reporters that, as part of his billion-dollar investment in Florida, he’s looking for two to three more sites in St. Pete to build out his vision.

Next to him as he spoke, his son and heir John Catsimatidis, Jr., described a life where he’s known and loved St. Pete since birth – he’s been coming to visit family since his first year on Earth. As St. Pete continues to look ahead at what’s to come, much of that future is in the hands of the Catsimatidis family – a family determined to keep loving the Burg.

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