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Controversy ensues over planned tower

Neighbors of a planned 24-story condominium tower at the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and DeSoto Avenue have been saying for weeks that the highrise does not belong in Historic Hyde Park.

Now the developer agrees, but Citivest Corp. says Historic Hyde Park is what needs to change.

Citivest plans to ask the Historic Preservation Commission in August to remove the 1.1-acre site from the historic district, said John Grandoff, the developer's attorney.

"In a nutshell, no one wants us, so we're leaving," he said.

The developer hopes to build a 66-unit condo building that would be among the tallest on Bayshore. The land's zoning allows for a highrise, but neighbors have fiercely opposed the building, saying it would be too big for the site.

Citivest went to the Architectural Review Commission in April seeking permission to build closer to Bayshore and DeSoto than the city allows. Commissioners denied the request, which went to City Council for final consideration.

After two postponements, the council took up the issue last week. To accommodate neighbors' concerns, the developer reduced the height of the building to 24 stories from 31 stories. The developer also asked for another delay of the council hearing, now set for Sept. 18.

Dominick Graziano, an attorney for several property owners in the neighborhood, called the developer's latest request, this one to redraw the historic district, "a desperate act."

"They just want to play by their own set of rules," said Graziano, who also lives on DeSoto Avenue.

But Grandoff said it's the Architectural Review Commission that wants to change the rules by trying to decide zoning issues outside of its jurisdiction.

Jeanne Holton Carufel, president of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said the developer's request to leave the district shows a disregard for the historic guidelines. If outside the district, the project would not have to meet as rigorous guidelines.

Opposition to the building's height is just one of residents' objections, she said. They also have concerns about traffic and overdevelopment of their neighborhood.

"We want a serious meeting where we honestly discuss the issues and try to build something that's appropriate for the neighborhood," she said.

As many as four meetings on the project will take place in the coming months, including a Historic Preservation Commission hearing at 9 a.m. Aug. 12 and the council meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 18. Both meetings take place at City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.

The council may consider at a future date the Historic Preservation Commission's recommendation about removing the site from the historic district. The Architectural Review Commission will meet sometime in August to consider the developer's revised site plan for the tower, originally planned for 74 units.

The site is next to the 10-story Bayshore Royal Condominium, one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood. Bungalows line DeSoto.

A similar bungalow occupied the property but was torn down in 1980s. During a neighborhood revitalization in the 1990s, the corner lot was rezoned to allow multifamily housing.

A trust held by the City National Bank of Florida bought the property in 1996 and Citivest is developing it. Grandoff said the owner has no plans to sell the land, despite rumors that another property owner on Bayshore might be interested.

Citivest also developed The Stoval condo highrise, farther south on Bayshore.

_ Cory Schouten can be reached at 226-3401 or cschoutensptimes.com.

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