Granvil Tracy ‘73S thought he’d never be back after graduation
Just over the causeway were warm waters and white beaches. Around the corner was a neighborhood pizza joint.
A straight shot east on Central Avenue was . . . nothing of interest to teenage boys.
“There was never any real reason to venture east into the downtown,” said Granvil Tracy, who attended Admiral Farragut Academy as a seven-day boarder from 1969 until graduating in 1973. “There was not much there.”
So he and other cadets spent their free time along the Gulf of Mexico, from Treasure Island down to Pass-a-Grille Beach. For good pizza, the place was Mr. Pizza (a magnet for teens from many west St. Petersburg high schools).
When he left Farragut, Tracy was happy to return to his native Miami. He built a career in construction, earned an MBA, and became president of American Land Ventures. His company developed luxury apartments and condominiums up and down Florida’s Atlantic coast.
St. Petersburg was of little interest.
“When I was going to school there, St. Pete wasn’t anything like it is today,” he said. “I was militant about it, that I’m not going back.”
Then about six years ago a friend convinced him to take a look. He did, and was stunned.
Today, American Land Ventures is part of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline. The 18-story, 358-unit AER Apartments (today called Camden Pier District) opened in 2016. A new 23-story, 219-unit apartment tower is underway nearby.
He’s proud of the multiplier effect such projects have as they bring jobs, new residents, and more investment. The structures are modern, sleek, and full of amenities. They’re within walking distance of the waterfront, mere footsteps from cultural sites and nightlife.
“My opinion of downtown St. Pete is that it’s the nicest in Florida if not the southeast,” Tracy said.
The modernity of the American Land Ventures projects is far different from the Mediterranean Revival style of Farragut Hall, the building that housed his then-air-conditionless dorm. As a developer, Tracy appreciates the school’s unique architectural stamp on St. Petersburg.
“There was a lot of throwaway architecture during the years,” he said. “Having true historic buildings with character that have housed the school since the 40s? To me, that’s pretty unique. It goes from being a boarding school to an institution, from being an old building to a landmark.”
For Tracy, memories of the campus mix with flashes of fellow cadets from all over. He names their countries without thinking twice: Thailand, Venezuela, Brazil, Lebanon, South Africa, England, Ireland, Canada.
“It was interesting, fun to see people from different cultures, especially because it forced you to be in the same boat,” Tracy said, adding that the experience subconsciously prepared him for a career interacting with people from all backgrounds and perspectives.
He’s pleased that the school, like the city, has continued to evolve: “From when I was there through to today, it’s much, much different.”