BAYSHORE GARDENS — In the shadow of a for sale sign, water cooler buzz has turned to the fate of a parking lot used by runners, flag wavers and tourists.
The city has leased the corner lot at Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards since 1998. But a $4.9 million price tag is too hefty, said city real estate manager Herb Fecker. "We have no money," he said. "None."
Owner Bill Robinson approached Fecker to gauge the city's interest before listing the property with Toni Everett last month. Several callers have expressed interest, she said. The acre lot with a view of Hillsborough Bay is zoned for 32 units and 15 stories.
Tampa currently pays Citivest $15,000 a year, under an agreement that can be terminated by either party with 30 days' notice. City workers put in a water fountain and picnic tables. They spread mulch to even out ruts and transformed the spot into a parking lot and meeting place for hundreds who cross the street to jog, skate or walk their dogs along Bayshore Linear Park Trail.
Beth Bryan comes daily with other members of the running group Blue Sharks. She worries another high-rise will add more people and more traffic, making crossing Bayshore more hazardous. She says the 10-foot-wide sidewalk has become cramped in the past years with bikers, walkers, runners, strollers and dog walkers and needs to be widened.
Lately, she said in an e-mail, they stop for water at the lot and wonder:
"Where will we and these other people park?"
"What is the city thinking?"
"What can we do to stop the construction?"
They toss ideas, such as charging fees or finding a philanthropist. But, so far, there has been no solution.
The location is also known as Patriots Corner for the American flag wavers who showed up days after Sept. 11 and have returned each Friday since. Bayshore Patriots founder Julie Whitney says the property's sale would not stop her group from gathering. They will park on side streets.
Citivest Construction bought the lot for $3.8 million in 2005, according to county property records. The most recent year's taxes on the property were $8,790. Robinson, president of Citivest Construction, declined to comment for this story through his attorney, John Grandoff III.
In 2004, Mayor Pam Iorio formed the Bayshore Task Force, a group of neighborhood and city leaders who recommended ways to make the scenic corridor more pedestrian safe after a jogger was killed on the roadway.
The city has since added crosswalks, traffic lights and sidewalks in front of mansions along the thoroughfare.
The group's recommendations included more parking, said Vicki Pollyea, president of the Bayshore Gardens Neighborhood Association. But she worries the city won't be able to afford it.
Pollyea would be sorry to see a high-rise grow from the parking lot. Bayshore is a "unique asset," she said, with its "stately homes set back, I'd rather see something that fits in with what we know as Bayshore."
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