TAMPA — The owner of a 15th-floor Skypoint condominium is suing the city of Tampa to try to block a high-rise apartment tower planned near the Riverwalk.
John P. Baker contends that the 36-story Residences at the Riverwalk would block the "sweeping views of the Hillsborough River" from a condo he paid $255,000 for last year.
Baker's condominium is within 600 feet of the site of the new 400-foot-tall tower, according to his lawsuit, filed this month in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
The suit also contends that the new tower is inconsistent with Tampa's comprehensive plan. Among other things, the suit said a residential project is incompatible with the rest of the city's arts and cultural district, the high-rise will tower over surrounding buildings, the project will be built on open space near the river that the plan says should be saved, and the development will disrupt the downtown street grid.
As of late Friday, the city had not been served with the suit, but City Attorney Julia Mandell wasn't waiting for a process server. Her office heard about the suit and pulled it at the courthouse. Mandell, a land-use specialist, filed a notice of appearance for herself and assistant city attorney Allison Singer in the case.
"This is a case that's very important to the city," Mandell said. "The city will vigorously defend its actions, both as the regulatory agency and as the property owner."
The City Council voted in August to rezone the site for the tower, which is being developed by Phillip Smith and Greg Minder. (Minder, coincidentally, is one of the developers of Skypoint.) Plans call for the new high-rise to have 380 apartments, a 620-space parking garage and 10,000 square feet of first-floor shops and restaurants.
To create the site, the city plans to sell about an acre of city land at the spot in front of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts where Tyler and Cass streets now meet.
Money from that $4 million sale will then be used to transform both Tyler and Cass streets, which are now fast-moving one-way streets, into slower two-way streets.
Traffic that now goes west on Tyler to cross the Cass Street Bridge will be diverted to Cass. Tyler is expected to become more of a local street that serves the Straz Center and the tower.
Smith did not return a call for comment. Construction is not imminent because developers have agreed not to start the road improvements until at least June 2014 so the work doesn't disrupt the Straz Center's Broadway series or a planned Bollywood awards event.