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Arts center gets initial approval in Temple Terrace

An artist’s rendering of Downtown Temple Terrace shows the master planned development that calls for retail, restaurant, residential and civic components.

Vlass Temple Terrace LLC

An artist’s rendering of Downtown Temple Terrace shows the master planned development that calls for retail, restaurant, residential and civic components.

TEMPLE TERRACE — The City Council and developers of Downtown Temple Terrace took a small step forward this week in a project that has been virtually stalled for more than a year.

Council members unanimously approved the preliminary site plan for the Arts and Education Center, which they hope will be a magnet for businesses and residents to locate in the $160 million planned retail-office-residential village.

"It's progress. As little as it may seem, it is progress,'' said council member David Pogorilich.

It may be weeks or months yet before the walls start going up on the building that the city will share with retailers, whose shops will face 56th Street. The city center, with a theater and classrooms, will occupy 16,800 square feet of the building's 26,800 square feet, and the entrance will face Art Center Drive, which runs through the center of the village.

Taking up 30 acres on the east side of 56th Street, from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River, Downtown Temple Terrace is planned as the true downtown the 88-year-old city never had. The city bought the property for $21 million more than a decade ago and turned it over to Vlass Temple Terrace to develop it according to the city's vision.

Council members still have to approve the permanent site plan. City Attorney Mark Connolly, noting that developers have had plenty of time to work on the required documents, told City Council members "it would be reasonable that a final site plan could be submitted to you fairly soon.''

Connolly said that he finds it "problematic,'' however, that developers have not submitted the documents that spell out the city's rights and obligations in the building they will share with other occupants. That's required 60 days before the developer submits the detailed building plans, which follow submission of the final site plan.

"The time for getting documents to us, from my standpoint, that time is now,'' he said.

Despite the speed bumps along the way, the city and developers are back on track in the planned order of construction.

The two sides spent a year disagreeing over the type of residential buildings that will one day face the Arts and Education Center. The original city plan calls for retail outlets on the bottom floor of the residential buildings, a concept the developers have said is difficult to finance and make successful.

That issue will take center stage again after the arts center is under way. Pogorilich, a vocal stickler for the city's original vision, said the city and Vlass have been in discussions about the residence buildings and are "moving that along.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at pmorgan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3435.

Arts center gets initial approval in Temple Terrace 02/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 3:04pm]
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