Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Condo tower set to rise in downtown St. Pete; critic plans appeal

ST. PETERSBURG — Another high-rise residential project is in the works for downtown St. Petersburg. The city recently approved plans for a Mediterranean-style 16-story condominium tower with 72 homes on Fourth Avenue N.

Two older two- and three--story apartment buildings, at 131 and 145 Fourth Ave. N, will be demolished to make way for the project.

"We think there is a huge lack of supply based on the fact that nothing has been built in the last six years," said developer John Shine. He plans to call the project O N E, a nod to the nearby Historic Old Northeast neighborhood.

But will people also call it "one"?

"They can call it whatever they like," he said. "We think people want the kind of living that's available in downtown St. Petersburg but also want to be close to a residential neighborhood like Old Northeast."

He expects to invest $40 million from private and bank financing in the project and hopes to start construction in about a year. It should take around a year to 18 months to complete.

At least one critic of the high-rise plans to appeal the Development Review Commission's approval, which would trigger the project to go before the City Council.

"We feel that part of town … the north end of what's considered downtown, has a great historical context. This building is out of scale and out of character," said Peter Belmont, vice president of St. Petersburg Preservation. "It will stick out like a sore thumb."

Representatives of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Council of Neighborhood Associations and the nearby Flori de Leon Apartments have also voiced concern.

"I'm not really sure why we had so much neighborhood resistance," Shine said, pointing to nearby buildings like the 14-floor Walker-Whitney Plaza at 226 Fifth Ave. N that are similar in height.

The two apartment buildings where Shine plans to build hold 46 units but have no parking lot.

"We are going to put in 95 parking spaces. You will see a relief in parking in that area," Shine said. "This is not a glass and steel building. It's Mediterranean style, which will fit in. The existing buildings aren't of any historical significance."

Shine paid $1.3 million for the two buildings in 2003. Though they were bought for apartment income, as the upkeep on the properties increased with their age and downtown St. Petersburg grew more desirable, he saw they were more valuable to develop.

The two-bedroom condos, ranging from 1,500 to 2,800 square feet, will cost $400,000 to $600,000.

ShineCo got a variance to allow the building to be 10 feet instead of the required 30 away from the property line on its east side bordering a Duke Energy electrical substation. The developer reasoned that since the substation doesn't fill the property as a building would, there is plenty of airflow. It's also unlikely to be developed into a building down the road, Shine added.

Belmont isn't so sure.

"Downtown has been so successful. I think we're going to have continued success," he said. "Who's to say that it's not going to be so successful that that (Duke Energy) property doesn't become valuable enough to redevelop?"

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.

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