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Survey shows Straz Center trustees favor Riverwalk apartment tower

TAMPA — A proposed 36-story apartment tower near the Riverwalk won a big vote of confidence Thursday from the trustees of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

In a survey of the boards of the center and its charitable foundation, 32 board members favored the tower project at its proposed site, an acre next to the Straz Center and behind the John F. Germany Public Library.

Sixteen trustees opposed it and 14 did not cast ballots.

On Monday, trustees had asked questions of developer Phillip A. Smith, then spoke both for and against the proposed Residences at the Riverwalk. The tower would include 380 apartments, a 620-space parking garage and 10,000 square feet of first-floor shops and restaurants.

"We were able to present all the pros and cons of the project to the board," Straz Center board chairman Dr. Martin Silbiger said in a statement. "After thorough discussion and reflection on all aspects of this proposal, a very clear majority of our board is in favor of the project."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomed the trustees' support and noted they are the latest to weigh in favorably on the tower.

"It is a clear indication that they share the developers' and my vision for a vibrant, active waterfront and downtown," Buckhorn said in a statement.

The city says the project also has picked up expressions of support from the Uptown Council, an association of downtown residents, business owners and property owners; plus the Tampa Museum of Art; American Institute of Architects; Tampa Downtown Partnership; and the Friends of the Riverwalk.

On the other side, the SkyPoint Condominium Association's board favors more housing downtown but opposes the tower's location.

Straz Center president Judy Lisi said it was "important that we now have a significant mandate in favor of the project from our board."

The center looks forward to working with the city and developers, she said, and she and Silbiger like the idea that the project will improve the streetscape around the Straz Center — something it has long wanted.

As proposed, the city would sell the land to the developers for $4 million, at least twice its appraised value.

Money from that sale would then be used to turn both Tyler and Cass streets from one-way streets to two-way streets that carry slower traffic. Traffic that now goes west on Tyler to cross the Cass Street bridge would be diverted to Cass. Developers and city officials said that will result in a safer traffic pattern.

In addition to reworking the streets, the project will bring a bigger and improved arrival plaza to the Straz Center.

To win the center's support, developers also agreed to buy business interruption insurance in case construction interferes with Straz Center shows, keep the elevated skybridge from the William F. Poe Parking Garage and give the Straz Center an unrestricted gift of $1 million.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the project Aug. 8.

Survey shows Straz Center trustees favor Riverwalk apartment tower 07/18/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:46pm]
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