Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Real Estate

St. Pete City Council says no go for 23-story Bezu condo tower

ST. PETERSBURG — In a move Thursday that stunned both supporters and opponents, the City Council turned thumbs down on the Bezu, a proposed 23-story, 28-unit condo tower that would have risen next to one of downtown’s most historic buildings.

The vote came after a marathon six-hour hearing in which more than two dozen speakers took to the podium, some sporting black "No Bezu" stickers and the others wearing big green "Now Bezu" ones.

"It’s a huge disappointment,’’ Bezu developer Michel Reginano said afterward. "The huge issue to me is that I did everything required. Why would a developer want to continue in St. Pete?’’

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete (Sept. 25, 2017)

Reginano, who estimated he’s spent $2 million "and counting’’ on the Bezu, said it was too early to tell where he will appeal the decision to a circuit judge, revise the plans or scrap the project on First Street N and Fourth Avenue N.

Opponents said they were surprised — but heartened — by the council’s decision.

"Until the very last vote, I felt that the financial interests were going to prevail,’’ said Helen Moore, a resident of the adjacent Flori de Leon, a 1920s-era building where baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig once lived.

This was the second time a city panel has struck down the Bezu. In December, the Development Review Commission unanimously rejected the building after opponents charged it was far too big for its site and would be incompatible with the 7-story Flori de Leon and a neighborhood comprised largely of townhomes.

It would have taken a "super majority’’ vote of council members — six of the eight members — to override the December decision. Instead the vote was 4-4 with Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Gina Driscoll, Steve Kornell and Darden Rice agreeing with the review commission’s rejection.

"We are at a crux in this city,’’ Wheeler-Bowman said. "People feel that we are about to lose some of the things that made us special.’’

Driscoll, who was elected last year and whose district includes downtown, called the Bezu a "fantastic building’’ but in the wrong location. And she disagreed with claims that the vote would send a bad signal to developers or slow the city’s growth momentum.

"I find it hard to believe that no one is going to want to build anything here,’’ she said.

But council members Amy Foster, Brandi Gabbard, Charles Gerdes and Ed Montanari said they thought the Bezu’s developer had met most of the criteria set out by the city. It would be unfair to turn it down.

Gerdes, in particular, acknowledged opponents’ concerns over the mass of the Bezu and the compatibility, or lack of it, with the much smaller Flori de Leon.

"Personally, I think the project is too big for a 10,000 (square foot) property,’’ he said. But he still supported it.

In impassioned public comments, opponents compared the tall, skinny Bezu to a "giant toothbrush’’ and a middle finger salute to the neighborhood. "We’re a Shaquille O’Neal away from this building,’’ said Trevor Wells, whose condo in the nearby Spanish Palms would be less than eight feet from one of the Bezu walls. Former NBA star O’Neal is 7-foot-1.

After the December hearing, the Bezu’s developers made several changes to the project. Among them were moving a generator and totally enclosing the five-story garage so fumes and exhaust would not bother residents of the Flori de Leon. The 90-year-old building lacks central air-conditioning, and residents often leave their windows open.

"We made a lot of changes from the public feedback,’’ Todd Pressman, a representative for the developer, told council members.

But opponents, while stressing they were not against progress, said that approving the Bezu would be a mistake that could not be corrected.

"Developers come and go,’’ said Wayne Thomas, a Flori de Leon resident. "They can take their plans and go elsewhere. This is an existential thing with the Flori. We can’t move it — it’s there and it will stay there.’’

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

Comments
St. Pete condo of Weight Watchers’ Mindy Grossman hits market at nearly $4-million

St. Pete condo of Weight Watchers’ Mindy Grossman hits market at nearly $4-million

ST. PETERSBURG — Mindy Grossman, the former HSN chief who now heads Weight Watchers International, has put her Beach Drive condo on the market at the hefty price of $3.95 million.The three-bedroom, three-and 1/2 bath unit on the 24th floor of Ovation...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18
This $4.25 million bank-owned estate is the biggest waterfront property for sale in Tampa Bay

This $4.25 million bank-owned estate is the biggest waterfront property for sale in Tampa Bay

ST, PETERSBURG — For years it was Tampa Bay’s classiest party house, a spectacular waterfront estate that hosted many an event for charity. Now, it is the bay area’s priciest foreclosure for sale. U.S. Bank recently took back the mansion in St. Peter...
Published: 09/14/18
Florida, Tampa Bay rank high in risk of mortgage fraud

Florida, Tampa Bay rank high in risk of mortgage fraud

New York, New Jersey and Florida remain the top three states for the risk of mortgage fraud as fraud on mortgage applications ticks up nationally.One in 109 applications contained fraud in the second quarter of this year compared to one in 122 in the...
Published: 09/13/18
Townhomes are planned in St. Petersburg for the site of 1905 Victorian house

Townhomes are planned in St. Petersburg for the site of 1905 Victorian house

ST. PETERSBURG — Eight townhomes are planned for the site of a 1905 house thought to have been connected to early African-American leader Elder Jordan.A project of J2 Developers, the St. James Townhomes at 758 Third Ave. S each will have three bedroo...
Published: 09/13/18
New residential loans plunge in the Tampa Bay area

New residential loans plunge in the Tampa Bay area

Rising mortgage rates contributed to a sharp decline in residential loans originated in the Tampa Bay area in the second quarter of this year. According to the real estate database ATTOM Data Solutions, loans secured by residential property dropped 1...
Published: 09/12/18
A fresh take on what Tampa’s 50-story-plus Riverwalk Place will look like

A fresh take on what Tampa’s 50-story-plus Riverwalk Place will look like

TAMPA — Weeks before the sales center is due to open, potential buyers already are placing reservations on condos in Riverwalk Place. "The pace has been awfully good, better than we expected," said Reid Boren, managing partner of Two Roads Developmen...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/11/18
Flip or Flop? Tampa Bay’s house-flipping rate plunges

Flip or Flop? Tampa Bay’s house-flipping rate plunges

As home prices continue to rise, house-flipping is becoming less popular in the Tampa Bay area. The percentage of homes flipped in the second quarter of this year plunged 18 percent from the same period in 2017, according to the real estate web site ...
Published: 09/07/18
Opponents of Bezu condo tower sue developers, city of St. Pete

Opponents of Bezu condo tower sue developers, city of St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — As expected, the battle over Bezu has gone to court. In a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court, opponents say the city failed to follow the law and erred in approving plans to build the 19-story, 20-unit Bezu next to the hi...
Published: 09/06/18
Lawsuit over 25-story St. Pete tower involves option to buy land for $720,00 and contract to resell it for $1.8 million

Lawsuit over 25-story St. Pete tower involves option to buy land for $720,00 and contract to resell it for $1.8 million

ST. PETERSBURG — The developer of a proposed 25-story mixed-use tower in downtown St. Petersburg is suing the companies that own and lease a parcel of land where the tower would go.The dispute, which has put the project on indefinite hold, centers ar...
Published: 09/06/18
Water Street Tampa plans downtown’s first new office towers in decades

Water Street Tampa plans downtown’s first new office towers in decades

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa on Thursday unveiled the "work" part of its live-work-play vision for Tampa with a pair of 19- and 20-story office towers — billed as downtown’s first such "trophy" office buildings in 26 years.Add in another 180,000 square...
Published: 09/06/18