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Landmark designation changes condo plan

Redevelopment of downtown's old Kress building received a blow Thursday night when the City Council voted to make the facades of the buildings next to the Kress historic landmarks.

Jeannette Jason, part of the development team that planned to build 975 condos on two city blocks that include the Kress property, said they won't move forward with their project as proposed if the council finalizes the decision in two weeks. Instead, they'll build 573 condos on a block north of the Kress site.

The Kress building and the adjacent Newberry and Woolworth buildings will probably "stay boarded up," Jason said Friday.

The Kress building, on Franklin Street, was designated as a local landmark in January.

Jason said she didn't object to that designation because it offers significant tax benefits. But the more recent designations placed on the Newberry and Woolworth facades won't. Making them landmarks merely adds higher costs and more regulation to the project because all designs would have to be approved by an architectural review commission, she said.

Jason's plans called for restoring the Kress building and portions of the facades of the other two. But the designation approved Thursday means they would have to preserve the entire facade of the Newberry building.

The council ruled 5-0 in favor of designation, with Gwen Miller and Shawn Harrison absent.

"I'm shocked," Jason said.

The vote came just two weeks after the council voted 5-2 to move toward changing the city code to require owner consent before making a property a local landmark. That measure passed after cigar factory owners invoked property rights as an argument against landmarking their property.

The designation doesn't make developing the property impossible, Jason said.

"But we were trying to achieve work force housing," Jason said. "It was going to be expensive enough and cumbersome enough to do portions of the facade."

Earlier in the week, Jason's group hired attorney John Grandoff to join their legal team. Grandoff represents several other property owners in Tampa who are fighting landmark designation, including the cigar factory owners.