TAMPA — The City Council Thursday cleared the way for a new Ybor City apartment complex with a brick-and-tall window design meant to echo the historic district's old cigar factories.
The council voted to sell vacant city-owned land on the northern rim of Ybor to a partnership between Tampa developers Greg Minder and Phillip Smith and Robert Moreyra's Forge Capital Partners.
The group wants to build a $27-million, 220-unit apartment complex on E 12th Avenue between 16th and 17th streets, just south of Interstate 4.
The project shows how Ybor City is changing, officials say.
While many people tend to think of Ybor for entertainment, the city's top development official said the No. 1 use of space in the district is for offices — with more coming, as a division of Ashley Furniture plans to move 300 employees into Centro Ybor — and residential uses are growing.
"We are having people clamoring to live there," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's administrator for economic opportunity. "It's well on the way to that live-work-play environment, and giving people more options to live there will only support that."
The developers will pay $660,000, the appraised value of the land. The group was the only bidder when the city sought proposals on the property last December. But its initial offer was $350,000. City officials responded that the bid needed to be closer to the appraised price, so the developers raised it.
The developers also will have to acquire an adjacent piece of property from the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. If they can't do that within 180 days, then the city sale will fall through.
No do-over on Harbour Island sky bridge vote
The council opted not to reconsider its June 26 decision to allow a planned 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island to build a pedestrian sky bridge to a neighboring garage.
The Related Group of Miami plans to build a tower with 340 apartments and has an agreement for about 560 available spaces for tenants in the Two Harbour Place garage next door. The sky bridge would connect the tower and the garage.
John Grandoff III, an attorney for condo owners in the neighboring Plaza Harbour Island, says his clients do not oppose the tower but are concerned about traffic. Residents of four buildings, plus workers in Two Harbour Place, will converge on the same intersection at peak traffic hours, he said.
Better, residents say, would be for Related to build parking in its own building, which would entail building fewer apartments.
"They can park in-house, in their own area, as is done, as is done in other buildings on Harbour Island," Plaza resident Bill Queenan told the council.
But the capacity is there, with 800 empty parking spaces in the garage, said Steve Patterson, president of Related Development.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn had urged the council not to re-open the issue. Stretching out the review process, officials said, can block a project as effectively as an outright denial.
"Generally, when people don't want a real estate project, they want to delay it as much as they can because time kills all deals," McDonaugh said.
The Related Group aims to break ground late this year, with an opening in early 2016. Last year, the company finished the Pierhouse at Channelside, a four-story complex with 356 apartments on S Meridian Avenue.
The tower has the zoning it needs and is within limits established by the Harbour Island's Development of Regional Impact approval, officials say.
Consequently, the City Council has not been required to give its approval for project. But on June 26, the council did vote to release a city easement needed to build the sky bridge.
On July 17, Grandoff asked the council to reconsider its vote.
Under the council's rules, any of the four council members who voted to allow the sky bridge — Charlie Miranda, Harry Cohen, Mike Suarez and Lisa Montelione — could have made a motion Thursday to reconsider.
None did. (Frank Reddick could not make the motion because he voted against the sky bridge on June 26. Mary Mulhern and Yvonne Yolie Capin could not make the motion because they were absent on June 26 and did not vote.)
Opponents still have one more shot at the project.
A site plan for the tower is undergoing administrative review. If approved, opponents can appeal that site plan to the council "until we get the answers and the comfort we want to have on the transportation impacts," Grandoff said.