Temple Terrace looks to reignite redevelopment project

Temple Terrace looks to sell 22 acres of land to create an "organic" downtown area.
Temple Terrace redevelopment director Martin Hudson  wants to set core ideas for a downtown look.
Temple Terrace redevelopment director Martin Hudson wants to set core ideas for a downtown look.
Published September 23 2015
Updated September 23 2015

TEMPLE TERRACE — City officials have had more than a dozen meetings and phone conversations with developers and business people inquiring about the 22 acres of land Temple Terrace wants to sell to build a true downtown.

No one, however, has submitted an informal plan as to what they might want to build there, as advertised in a "request for qualifications'' that was due in late May, said Marty Hudson, the city's redevelopment director.

"That's not unusual," he said before a town hall meeting last week.

"The request for qualifications was really to put us back on the map in the development community and say: 'Here we are again. We now own the land; we're back in business,' so to speak."

Hudson told about 15 residents gathered in City Hall that he hopes to have development restart within the next two years, but he couldn't make any promises.

"The reality is we're kind of starting at square one again.''

The city has spent more than a decade attempting to build an enclave of offices, shops, restaurants and residences on land stretching along the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River. Late last year, the city paid $1.6 million in a court settlement to sever the deal with its third developer, Vlass Temple Terrace, and get back the land it gave to Vlass to build the village according to the city's image. The sides disagreed on myriad details.

This time, Temple Terrace wants to sell the acreage. While the city wants offices, residences, shops and restaurants — "an organic downtown environment,'' as Hudson calls it — he's working to make the process easier.

He wants to simplify the building code, setting out a series of "core principles'' for the look of the downtown in a brief, clear document.

That gets "all the minutiae out of the way so that we are flexible and able to work with the market,'' he said.

Among the proposed requirements is that buildings be two to five floors high, with an ability to go higher on a case-by-case basis approved by the city council.

The original plan called for a Mediterranean motif for all the buildings, but Hudson said varied architecture makes for a more interesting environment and a downtown that "looks real.''

Builders also would have to include large windows on the first floors, which "allow for people to feel engaged in their surroundings.''

The code also would specify that trees have to be placed every 20 feet and include other landscaping. Sidewalks would have to be at least six feet wide.

A few residents offered their views at the meeting. One wanted to make sure she could ride her golf cart there. Another asked for more activities for young families.

Resident Philip Levy expressed appreciation for Hudson's approach to the project, noting that the redevelopment director is talking "extremely differently'' from how city officials have talked about the project in the past.

"That's very much a compliment.''

Contact Philip Morgan at pmorgan@tampabay.com.