TAMPA — With developers sniffing around Ybor City, Tampa officials plan to seek proposals for two pieces of city land, one of them a potential hotel site at the historic district's front door.
City officials said Thursday they plan to invite hotel proposals for about a third of a block the city owns at the northeast corner of Nick Nuccio Parkway and E Seventh Avenue.
Developer Arnold Gitten with the Phoenix Group out of Broward County already has approached the city about purchasing the land, now used for parking. But because Ybor City is a community redevelopment area, the city is required to invite anyone interested to make an offer before it closes a deal.
The city plans to issue those requests for proposals in a week or so. Officials are getting the property appraised now.
"That's a gateway to Ybor, and we always knew eventually we wanted a nice project there," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "We are definitely interested in developing that site."
The city's lot is next to land owned by Volunteers of America, which also is for sale. Together, the two parcels could be combined into about three-fourths of a block, said Bob McDonaugh, the city's economic opportunity administrator.
The neighboring Marti-Maceo Club and Chancey Design Partnership office building on the block would be expected to stay.
Officers of the Marti-Maceo Club — officially, Sociedad La Union Marti-Maceo — have raised concerns with Buckhorn about the prospect of a new hotel.
The city allows the club to collect parking fees on the lot, and in a recent letter to Buckhorn, a club official said the club has "clearly understood" that a sale of the lot was a possibility. But the club worries about whether a new hotel would impede its members' access to and from the property or block views of the club's colorful mural, which depicts Ybor City's Latin heritage.
"It is one of the stops on the tours offered by Ybor City" and "is visited by tourists constantly," club vice president Olga Daniels wrote recently to Buckhorn.
Vince Pardo, manager of the city-run Ybor City Development Corp., said he has met with Gitten and impressed on him that whatever is proposed for the site must be sensitive to the needs of the club and architecture firm.
Buckhorn says a hotel is appropriate for the location, would increase property tax revenues and enhance the historic district. If the city has a chance to sell it for a good project, he said officials would be foolish not to do so.
"I like that mural and I have a lot of friends at Marti-Maceo," he said, "but ultimately it's the city's lot and if we can do something to stimulate the redevelopment of Ybor City, I think that's win-win for everybody."
Other city officials said the city is looking for more than just a high bid. What's proposed has to have a design that benefits the historic district, Pardo said. Also, McDonaugh said the city would look for development to begin within a set period of time, such as a year.
"We don't want to sell that property and then have it sat on," McDonaugh said.
Officials also have received expressions of interest from developers about building more apartments in Ybor. As a result, the city plans to issue a second request for proposals for about a half a block near Interstate 4 and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.
Both kinds of development would help Ybor City mature, officials say.
"One of the things that we have strived do to is to round out the activities in Ybor," McDonaugh told the City Council on Thursday. "More heads on beds. When you have more people living there, it attracts more service retail and rounds out that Ybor experience."