Rise in high-rises dis­plac­ing many

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - BY SU­SAN TAY­LOR MARTIN Times Se­nior Cor­re­spon­dent

The St. Peters­burg Devel­op­ment Re­view Com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proves a 20-story tower that would re­place sev­eral af­ford­ably priced apart­ment build­ings.

ST. PETERS­BURG — Un­able to af­ford life in Cal­i­for­nia any longer, Su­san Olsen moved to St. Peters­burg and found an apart­ment in a build­ing down­town for $750 a month.

She might not be there much longer. On Wed­nes­day, the city’s Devel­op­ment Re­view Com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved a $69-mil­lion, 20-story tower that would re­place sev­eral quaint old apart­ment build­ings that are home to Olsen and dozens of oth­ers. The unan­i­mous vote came de­spite com­plaints that St. Peters­burg’s stock of af­ford­able hous­ing is rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing.

“I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to have to com­pletely move out of the area,’’ said Olsen, a re­tiree who lives on her So­cial Se­cu­rity in­come.

Illi­nois-based In­land Na­tional Devel­op­ment plans to de­mol­ish seven apart­ment build­ings, some dat­ing to the 1920s, on Fifth Street N and Third Av­enue near Mir­ror Lake. They would be re­placed by a U-shaped tower with nearly 10,000 square feet of ground-floor re­tail space.

City staffers rec­om­mended ap­proval of the tower, which would add 270 units to the more than 2,000 re­cently built or un­der con­struc­tion in and near down­town.

The new­est project would be “dis­plac­ing a whole block of peo­ple,’’ said Lynn Mer­hige, co-owner of a small com­mer­cial build­ing in the area. “I won­der if the city should maybe slow down, take a pause and see what hap­pens with all this rush to devel­op­ment in the Edge District, the (Grand) Cen­tral District. You should see all the empty, dark apart­ments.’’

Mer­hige also raised con­cerns that af­ford­able apart­ments would be knocked down for a project that might not get built.

“We saw what hap­pened in 2005, 2008,’’ she said. “It’s gonna hap­pen again, there’s boom now but there’s go­ing to be a bust.’’

City of­fi­cials said the de­vel­oper would be re­quired to sub­mit “full and com­plete’’ con­struc­tion plans but no proof of fi­nanc­ing be­fore de­mo­li­tion per­mits were is­sued.

The 20-story, con­tem­po­rary style tower would be by far the tallest struc­ture in a neigh­bor­hood of mostly older, lowrise build­ings, in­clud­ing the Beaux Arts li­brary built in 1915.

“This is an in­cred­i­ble change for this part of town,’’ Pe­ter Bel­mont of Pre­serve the ’Burg told com­mis­sion­ers. “This city re­ally needs to think what it’s go­ing to look like in the fu­ture.’’

At­tor­ney R. Don­ald Mas­try, rep­re­sent­ing the de­vel­oper, noted that the city had ap­proved the site in 2005 for an even big­ger tower — 25 sto­ries. He also noted that condo tow­ers on Beach Drive had re­placed older, shorter build­ings.

“That’s how the re­de­vel­op­ment of down­town oc­curs,’’ he said.

Com­mis­sion­ers lis­tened to the ob­jec­tions but made lit­tle com­ment them­selves be­fore their unan­i­mous vote of ap­proval. Op­po­nents could ap­peal the de­ci­sion to the City Coun­cil.

After­ward, John C. Brown of In­land Na­tional Devel­op­ment said the com­pany orig­i­nally planned to put a Mar­riott ho­tel on the site but didn’t think it was “the right time or right place.’’

“But hav­ing spent a year in town, we did ed­u­cate our­selves on the apart­ment mar­ket and be­came bullish,’’ he said. “This is a dy­namic mar­ket and we feel like we’re go­ing to ac­ti­vate the Mir­ror Lake side of town.’’

He wouldn’t dis­close the price range for rents in the tower. Asked if they would be as low as the $750 that cur­rent area res­i­dents pay, he quickly said: “No.’’ Con­tact Su­san Tay­lor Martin at [email protected]­pabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Fol­low @su­san­skate.


This 1925 apart­ment build­ing in down­town St. Peters­burg would be among those to go to make way for a 20-story tower.

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