TEMPLE TERRACE — City Council members considered what they want as a southern anchor to the Downtown Temple Terrace project and decided it isn't a coin laundry that fails to conform to the required Mediterranean Revival motif.
Though the council took no vote on Tuesday, members seemed adamant they would not approve a list of waivers requested by Alex Chong, owner of the building at 56th Street and Riverhills Drive that was occupied for years by an auto parts store. Chong, owner of Mega Wash Laundry Super Center, wants to open a coin laundry and cleaners at the location.
Steve Allison, a consultant representing Chong, told council members that Chong did not realize when he bought the building that any change to it would have to jibe with the architectural and layout standards of the rest of Downtown Temple Terrace, a retail, office, restaurant and cultural center planned for the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.
As it stands, the only enterprise that is grandfathered in without any changes is an auto parts store.
Allison told the council that costs would be overwhelming for Chong to fully adapt the building to the standards set out in the redevelopment area code, and he asked for eight waivers to the code. He presented drawings to show what they would do, including adding a trellis walkway, columns and canopies. He said another space in the building could be used as an ice cream or coffee shop.
Residents who spoke were solidly in opposition.
"All of us come to Temple Terrace from south across the river,'' said Carol Dell. "When we enter Temple Terrace, it will be the first building that will be in our redevelopment center, and it will be the Laundromat that's asking for eight waivers.''
Former council member Ron Govin said, "We can't go giving waivers that could then later be requested and not given. It would put us in a very sensitive position.''
Residents and council members said they regret that Chong did not do his "due diligence'' in researching the property before buying it. Council member Grant Rimbey said, however, if the council starts relaxing its code for everyone who asks it, "We are doomed.''
After the presentation, Chong said he did not know what his next step would be.