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Well-known developers seek to build hotel, apartments in Ybor City

TAMPA — After sending out invitations last month, City Hall has received proposals from two developers to build a hotel at the gateway to Ybor City and one to build apartments along the northern edge of the historic district.

"The goal was to get more hotel rooms, which seems to be needed in Ybor, and to get some more full-time residences," Tampa economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh said Tuesday. "These projects seem to accomplish the things that we're looking for."

And none of the three developers is a stranger to the city.

For the hotel, the land in question is at the northeast corner of Nick Nuccio Parkway and E Seventh Avenue. Together with land owned by Volunteers of America, there's about three-quarters of a block that could be developed.

One of the proposals came from YC Hospitality LLC, a joint venture between Volunteers of America and South Florida developer Arnold Gitten.

Last year, Gitten approached City Hall about buying its land, which is now used as a parking lot. Because Ybor City is a community redevelopment area, the city had to give other developers a chance to make an offer before it sold the land.

The other proposal came from the Tampa-based Liberty Group, which specializes in hotel investment, development and management. Nationwide, its assets total more than $300 million.

Liberty executive Punit Shah also is a partner in a $14 million project to redevelop the old Mercantile Bank building overlooking the Hillsborough River. Plans call for reopening the property this year as the Aloft Tampa Downtown, a high-end boutique hotel.

While the city and the Volunteers of America are looking to sell, the neighboring Marti-Maceo Club and Chancey Design Partnership offices on the block are expected to stay.

Tampa officials say they have impressed on prospective developers that whatever is proposed for the site must be sensitive to the needs of the architecture firm and the club, which is protective of its colorful outdoor mural depicting Ybor City's Latin heritage.

"I am looking for partners who recognize Ybor's history and want to help fulfill its potential," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an announcement of the proposals Tuesday.

In response to a second request for proposals, the city received one proposal to develop multifamily housing on about half a block along E 12th Avenue between N 16th and N 17th streets. It came from the Intown/Framework Group, a partnership between Tampa developers Greg Minder and Phillip A. Smith.

Together, Minder and Smith are developing a 36-story apartment tower near the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The high-rise won city approval in August, but the start of construction will wait until after the completion of this year's Broadway Series of performances at the Straz Center.

Minder and Smith had big projects on their resumes even before proposing the tower near the Straz Center. Minder teamed up with an Atlanta developer for the 32-story SkyPoint and 35-story Element residential towers. Smith is the developer for the 350-unit Varela apartment complex at Lois Avenue and Spruce Street in West Shore.

Details of the proposals, including the prices that developers are offering for the city's land, were not available Tuesday. Florida's Public Records Law makes the content of the proposals exempt from disclosure for 30 days unless the city awards a contract sooner.

McDonaugh said the city will review each proposal, ask for more information if necessary and would like to make some choices in a "week or so."

The Ybor City projects are the latest in a series of ventures where Buckhorn has sought out developers to renovate, rebuild or reuse city properties that were dormant, costing the city money to maintain or generating no property tax revenue.

As a result, now under development are:

• Le Meridien Hotel, a $25 million project to convert the long-vacant old federal courthouse on Florida Avenue into a 130-room boutique hotel.

• Ulele Native-Inspired Foods & Spirits, a restaurant in the old Water Works Building. The $4 million-plus project is being done by the Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant chain.

• Minder and Smith's Residences at the Riverwalk tower, which will rise from a new city block carved from the spot where W Tyler Street now takes a U-turn and intersects with W Cass Street. The developers are paying $4 million for the land, and the tower is expected to attract 500 residents to downtown and generate $1 million in property taxes annually.

Likely to come in the future is a request for proposals for the city's 12-acre wastewater vehicle yard near the Hillsborough River. The truck yard is on the west side of the river, about a block from the water and a block south of W Columbus Drive. Buckhorn has touted its location, elevation and views of downtown.

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Well-known developers seek to build hotel, apartments in Ybor City 01/07/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 12:03am]
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