TAMPA — In the heady days of the real estate boom, developers picked two vacant lots in the Channel District as the ideal spot for a flashy mixed-use project anchored by a 29-story tower.
Today the financing for such mega-projects has evaporated, and the lots are surrounded by a chain-link fence.
Now a new developer has bought the land and proposes something more modest, though still welcome at City Hall.
Related Development of Miami is working on plans for a four-story, 360-unit apartment complex immediately north of the Towers of Channelside.
"We constantly hear that times are tough out there," Tampa economic development administrator Mark Huey told City Council members Thursday. So when a private developer wants to make a "very significant investment" in a redevelopment area, "it's good news."
Five years ago, Sembler Investments pursued plans for a project known as Seaboard Square on the site.
Plans then called for a complex of low- and high-rise buildings that included a hotel, condominiums, townhomes, stores and offices.
That project never happened, and in December, Related bought the 5.8 acres for $6.5 million. Company president and chief executive Steve Patterson has said the Channel District is promising because it's close to many downtown jobs.
The project would be east of N Meridian Avenue, between E Cumberland Avenue and E Whiting Street.
Construction could begin in the fourth quarter of this year, with developed apartments ready nine months to a year after that, city officials said. Rents would range from about $1,250 to $2,200.
The project, which does not have a name yet, would include a couple of parking garages and a park.
To create that park, Related Development is asking the city to vacate 11th Street. Related would pay to create the park, and the developer or subsequent owners of the property would maintain the park for 49 years.
A development agreement and a request to vacate part of 11th Street are expected to go to the City Council for consideration on May 19.
"One of the things we need most in the Channel District is more green space," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's redevelopment manager for the district and downtown.
Neighbors like the idea, McDonaugh said, because 11th Street is not a through street and is used for parking by patrons of the nightclubs at Channelside at Bay Plaza.
At closing time, those patrons make a lot of noise going to their cars, so a public park sounds good by comparison, McDonaugh said.
That's true, said Andy Bolnick, president of the Towers of Channelside Condominium Association.
"I haven't heard of anybody that's not pleased," he said.
Richard Danielson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403.