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Temple Terrace candidates take the discussion downtown

TEMPLE TERRACE — The controversial Downtown Temple Terrace project likely will take center stage when candidates for City Council and mayor address the public at a forum Tuesday night.

The current council and Vlass Temple Terrace, developers of the $160 million retail and residential project south of Bullard Parkway, have been locked for weeks in negotiations over construction of the residences. The city's master plan envisions retail storefronts on the first floor of the residence buildings. The developers say such a plan is no longer economically feasible.

City Council member Mary Jane Neale, the only sitting council member running for re-election Nov. 6, faces Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union executive Eddie Vance and community activist Grant Rimbey, project manager with Elements Architects in Tampa. The top two vote-getters in that race will fill Neale's spot and the seat being vacated by Ronald A. Govin, who has reached his term limit.

Neale, 75, said she wants to see the residence buildings fitted with glass storefronts on the first floor. If retail tenants haven't been found by the time 75 percent of the upstairs living units are rented, only then would she be willing to talk about converting the first floor to residential units.

"If you're going to do it, you shouldn't program it for failure," she said.

Rimbey, 49, said he wants storefronts on the first floor of the residence complex, as the city originally envisioned.

Vance, 46, said the developers did agree in the contract to put retail on the first floor, but he would be in favor of exploring an alternative that some have suggested informally: build a strip of stores in the north part of the project, where the residences are currently scheduled to go, and build the residences — with no retail on the bottom floors — south of Sweetbay Supermarket, which anchors the center of the project. The redevelopment extends east of 56th Street from Bullard to the Hillsborough River.

On another issue, cutting the budget, Neale said she wants to do it in ways that "keep Temple Terrace Temple Terrace'' — the Fourth of July activities, good police and fire coverage, and frequent garbage pickup.

Both Rimbey and Vance stressed the need to improve the schools in the community in order to attract home buyers.

Two other candidates are vying for the mayor's job, a role with limited power — the mayor votes on issues set before the council only if there is a tie.

Frank Chillura, 44, a former City Council member who is in the property management business, faces Cheri Donohue, 63, the retired executive director of the town's chamber of commerce.

They're running for the position being vacated by Joe Affronti, who has reached his term limit.

Philip Morgan can be reached at pmorgan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3435.

>>Fast Facts

Candidate forum

What: Meet the Temple Terrace candidates, a forum sponsored by the Temple Terrace Bar Association

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, 200 Inverness Ave.

Admission: Free

Temple Terrace candidates take the discussion downtown 07/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 7, 2012 4:31am]
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