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Plans yanked for downtown towers

Plans for the $70-million, twin-tower development along Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg were pulled Friday by the project's architect, who said the developer owes him more than a quarter million dollars.

The plans for the Villas at St. Petersburg, 200 apartments plus a 620-space parking garage and a commercial building, had been filed with the city's Zoning Department.

Their first official airing was scheduled for December before the Environmental Development Commission.

Architect Calvin B. Samuel withdrew the plans, using a power of attorney signed by developer Paul Morris on Oct. 18. The document gave Samuel power to withdraw, discharge and dismiss the application for the Villas if Morris failed to pay Samuel's company, CSJM Architects, $263,781 by Oct. 30.

Neither Samuel nor Morris could be reached for comment Friday.

Morris, 53, moved to St. Petersburg from Los Angeles earlier this year, looking for development sites.

He struck a deal with the John M. Hamilton family for a long-term lease of the 400 block of Beach Drive NE.

In September he announced a mixed-use project with two 20-story residential towers that would hold 100 apartments each.

The towers would sit above a 620-space parking garage. The complex would include a three-story commercial building with shops and restaurants.

Other amenities for apartment residents would include two swimming pools, a lap pool and a clubhouse.

"The project will start going vertical in March," Morris said in September. "That is not an "if'."

However, the project's future was unclear Friday.

Zoning official John Hixenbaugh said the project could be resubmitted to the EDC at any time.

"It's as if it never existed," he said of the withdrawal. If the EDC had taken any formal action, the project could have faced delays in being refiled, depending on what the formal action was, Hixenbaugh said.

"We hope that we will be able to resubmit this outstanding project in the near future," Samuel said in his letter to the city withdrawing plans.

The 400 block of Beach Drive NE was home to a number of shops and some offices, including those of the Hamilton family. Most of those closed or moved after Morris announced plans for the Villas.

He had not set prices for the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments he planned to build but said they would be in the same range as the luxury apartments now under construction south of Central Avenue by Zom Development Inc. of Orlando.

Those rents run from $750 to $1,715.