TEMPLE TERRACE — City attorney Mark Connolly said it may take several meetings between city representatives and the developer to come to a resolution over Downtown Temple Terrace, presumably on how the partners can end their business arrangement without a court fight.
Vlass Temple Terrace and the city agreed in a first meeting held two weeks ago to keep negotiations confidential. At Connolly's request, the City Council this week voted to approve an agreement with Vlass that neither side will sue the other while negotiations are under way.
That will allow the two sides time to work out differences, Connolly said in an interview. They most likely are discussing how to amicably end their relationship, since that was the developer's stated wish in a March letter by the company's attorney, David Smith, requesting a meeting.
It's possible, however, that the two sides will at least address the chances of continuing their work together on the $160 million complex that would include offices, retail, residential units and performing arts facility, which would create the downtown that the city has never had.
Connolly said he wouldn't be "talking out of school'' to say that the council would like to work out differences with Vlass and get the project back on track. Connolly, City Manager Gerald Seeber and Mayor Frank Chillura make up the city's team in negotiations with Smith and Vlass representatives.
Meanwhile, Connolly said, the city has not started looking for another developer. "We're not talking to anybody.''
The city and Vlass signed a contract in 2009 to build the project on the east side of 56th Street, from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River. It's a crucial part of the city's effort to enliven its image and attract businesses and home buyers, not to mention a badly-needed new source of tax revenue.
The city gave the 30 acres to Vlass with the understanding that the developer would build the project according to the city's master plan. But the relationship has been marked by disagreement and bickering. In a major dispute, the developer contends that a component of the city's vision — to have retail stores all along the first floor of the residence buildings — is not economically viable.
At the crux of the negotiations is the provision of the contract stating that the city will get back its land after reimbursing Vlass for the money it has so far spent on the project, said to be in the millions.