Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Downtown St. Petersburg condo owners could soon lose their Bliss-ful water views

ST. PETERSBURG — When a developer announced plans for the 18-story Bliss condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg in 2014, some owners in nearby Parkshore Plaza weren't happy about it.

Bliss would block their superb water views, they grumbled.

Now Bliss is finished, and some of its residents are about to lose their water views.

Peter Rudy Wallace, former Speaker of the Florida House, plans a five story, four-unit condo building on a parcel he bought four years ago just east of where Bliss now stands at 176 4th Ave. NE. The project could start construction this year.

"It definitely will affect the fourth and fifth floors (of Bliss), and six will be affected, but they have views in other directions," Wallace said Tuesday. "Nobody has been unfriendly about it, surely they can understand we can't be limited to a one-story building."

Bliss residents contacted by a reporter declined to comment. But Realtor Geert Benoot, who lives in the Rowland Place condos on the west side of Bliss, said the Wallace project has stirred some concerns.

"It's interesting that at the time Bliss was built, a lot of people were against the construction of Bliss and now something is being constructed in front of Bliss and people are not happy," he said. "But living downtown is not living alone; living downtown is having neighbors."

As the Tampa Bay area continues to grow — up as well as out — obstructed views are increasingly common.

Near downtown Tampa, owners in the Plaza Harbour Island partly lost their water views when two apartment towers went up on both sides of it. In downtown St. Petersburg, the 41-story ONE St. Petersburg now under construction is affecting the sunset and city views of condo towers along Beach Drive.

Amid all the Beach Drive high-rises, a lone single-family home remains. Wallace and his wife, Helen, bought that structure and a building behind it from artist P. Buckley Moss in 2013 for $2.6 million. After an extensive renovation, the Wallaces recently moved into the 4,300-square-foot house and are proceeding with plans to knock down the adjacent building at 190 4th Ave NE to make way for the condo project.

"We would have loved to do a bookstore, a gallery or something not as residential but we just found that the best use is clearly residential," said Wallace, a lawyer who served as House Speaker from 1994 to 1996.

City staffers have approved site plans for the condos, along with a variance that allows the area designated for "pedestrian-oriented uses" to be reduced to 20 feet from the required 40 feet because of the lot's relatively narrow depth. No public hearing was held because the project is "consistent with the prevailing development pattern along 4th Avenue NE," the approval letter stated.

The condos, built over a ground-floor parking garage and a small commercial space, will be roughly 2,800 square feet with three bedrooms plus a den and four bathrooms, Wallace said. Prices have not been set.

The project is not generating nearly as much controversy as did Bliss, which critics contended was too big for its narrow lot and would create noise and traffic congestion in an alley shared by nearby restaurants and the Parkshore Plaza condo tower. In 2015, work began after a judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a Parkshore Plaza owner against the city and the developer

Just a few months after completion, three of Bliss's 29 units are on the market for considerably more than they originally cost. One that sold for $1.178 million in February is now priced at nearly $1.5 million.

Benoot, the Realtor, says he feels sorry for Bliss residents whose views will be blocked by the new condos but expects the final product to be a "wonderful addition" to the area. He noted that and he and other residents of Rowland Place realized something eventually would go up where Bliss is today.

"I was kind of relieved and happy when we knew it would be residences and not a party room," he said. "You have to see on the positive side."

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

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