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Hillsborough Community College sues architects over Ybor City building

YBOR CITY — After a public battle that pitted school officials against the city and historic preservationists, Hillsborough Community College is suing the architecture firm that designed the student services building on its Ybor City campus.

The building, now under construction, had to be redesigned last year after city officials said plans violated zoning regulations for the area, which is a designated national historic district.

Plans for the original four-story building were reduced to three stories, limiting the functionality of what was to have been "a one-stop student services center," according to the suit.

"We lost a lot of what was going to be on the fourth floor," HCC spokeswoman Ashley Carl said. "And with Ybor being landlocked, we can't build out."

She declined to give specifics, citing the college's policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The suit was filed last week in Hillsborough County Circuit Court against HuntonBrady Architects, P.A., based in Orlando. It alleges that the firm's project managers were aware of zoning regulations, which dictate that new buildings in Ybor City not exceed a height of 45 feet. The original design had the building at more than 60 feet, according to the suit.

The student services building is under construction on Palm Avenue, across the street from the Cuban Club. It is expected to be complete by early summer, Carl said.

HCC spent $3.2 million to remodel existing space on the campus to compensate for the loss of the planned fourth floor, the suit states. School officials also say the construction delay and redesign of the project also cost the college an additional $377,000.

Officials at HuntonBrady Architects did not return calls for comment this week.

The project drew the attention of city officials and residents last year when local preservationists learned of the design plans.

Tony LaColla, president of the Historic Ybor Neighborhood Civic Association, was among those opposed to the design. HCC is mainly to blame for not conforming to zoning guidelines, he said this week.

"As the landowner, HCC should have been aware of the regulations prior to construction," LaColla said. "The architect is responsible, but HCC is also responsible. The lawsuit is, in a way, frivolous. They're probably going to waste money going after the architect."

The Barrio Latino Commission, which regulates new construction in Ybor, had expressed concerns that the building's modern style was not in keeping with the historic look of the area's other buildings. Zoning violations could put Ybor City in danger of losing its status as a National Historic District.

Accommodations were made in the redesign to make the new building more closely resemble the historic structures surrounding it.

"It was a nice modern structure, but it did not mirror what was across the street," LaColla said. "They did a good job of redesigning the building to give it a historic feel."

Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

Hillsborough Community College sues architects over Ybor City building 04/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 1:36pm]
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