ST. PETERSBURG — Approval of a new 11-story downtown hotel with retail space was marked Wednesday by compromise and agreement, unlike many projects the city's Development Review Commission has considered.
"I commend the city staff, the owner and the residents living nearby for working together," commission chairman David Punzak said after the DRC unanimously approved a site plan for the project.
The proposed 141-foot-tall building is planned on vacant property at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and First Street N.
The site was most recently a parking lot and originally included a home that was demolished in 1996 and a hotel later converted to a seven-unit apartment building that was torn down in 1992.
Plans call for 100 hotel rooms, meeting space, a partly underground parking garage, a restaurant and street-level stores.
As designed by Baker Barrios Architects of Orlando, the building will feature a two-story base accented by large storefront windows, cantilevered awnings and an elevated building entrance oriented toward the intersection of First Street N and Third Avenue.
The tower will include a glass curtain wall system, vertically oriented windows and horizontal architectural elements. The above-ground portion of the parking garage will not be visible from the street.
Owner Savni Bakrac said he met repeatedly with nearby homeowners in an effort to redesign the project to satisfy their concerns about noise, lighting, landscaping, a cafe's hours and shade limiting the ability of rooftop solar collectors to operate properly.
"I do sympathize," said Bakrac as he reviewed a new list of conditions he and area residents reached only hours before the DRC hearing.
"We're not opposed to the project. We just want to make sure it is compatible with residential uses around it," said nearby homeowner Peter Belmont.
Belmont was particularly concerned about solar panels on his roof that would be blocked from the sun for much of the day.
Resident Stewart Olson also was worried about late-night noise from a proposed on-street cafe.
"This cafe will be 25 feet away from my bedroom window," he said as he asked the city to restrict "music of any kind" after 11 p.m.
The DRC agreed to the music ban for the outside seating area, but on the advice of city officials, it declined to address the solar panels or requests to change trash collection hours or restrict inside cafe hours or music.
"All these other items in the proposed conditions are up to the owner and others to work out," said DRC member Sharon Heal-Eichler. "The conditions (approved by the DRC) are sufficient."
The hotel project proposes to use development rights from the Ponce De Leon Hotel, which Bakrac also owns.
The transfer of development rights must be approved by the city's Community Preservation Commission before the project can move forward.