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Tampa rejects development proposals for its West River land

TAMPA — Thanks but no thanks, City Hall on Thursday told four development groups that had submitted proposals to develop 18 city-owned acres near the Hillsborough River.

"The West River property should attract a world-class development that both celebrates the history of West Tampa, meets the community's needs, and is financially attractive," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an announcement of the decision.

In February, City Hall issued a request for proposals for two pieces of land that it owns west of the river, south of Columbus Drive and north of Spruce Street. One consists of the city's old utility maintenance yard at 2609 N Rome Ave. The other includes ball fields at 2301 N Oregon Ave., that are being relocated as part of the larger West River development.

West River is a joint effort between the Tampa Housing Authority and the Related Group of Florida, based in Miami, to redevelop 44 acres that once were home to the now-demolished North Boulevard Homes public housing complex.

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Together, the housing authority and Related are developing 676 mixed-income apartments, condominiums or other types of housing in five projects with a total investment of more than $121 million. Plans call for 1,600 residences — half of them renting or selling at market prices and half of them consisting of subsidized affordable or workforce housing — plus hotels, retail and office space.

In response, the city got proposals from:

• Tampa Riverfront Sports, a group that included RGA-Design principal architect William Henry, Bayside/Broadway developer Geoff Weber and the Ohio-based NRP group, a national residential developer that has done work near Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. They proposed two high-rise towers with more than 1,500 residences, a 30-story, 750-room hotel and a 28,000-seat stadium that they said could be used as a new home for the Tampa Bay Rays.

• Related Urban, a subsidiary of the Related family of real estate development companies. Related, which has a regional office in Miami, is involved in redeveloping the North Boulevard Homes site and has built multi-family residential projects on the former Tampa Tribune property, in the Channel District and on Harbour Island.

• Urban Progress Alliance, a Tampa nonprofit headed by Andre Hill Sr. that proposes to build affordable and workforce housing on the property, along with a hotel and commercial uses that would be aligned with the alliance's efforts to redevelop the Main Street commercial corridor.

• Framework Group, led by Tampa developer Phillip Smith, the Barclay Group and architecture firm Torti Gallas+Partners, a global firm with a Tampa office.

Earlier this month, Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times that "the response was not as robust as I had hoped." He specifically said the Tampa Riverfront Sports proposal was a "non-starter" because its height, density and intensity were out of sync with the surrounding neighborhood. The mayor has previously said he thinks mid-rise development of maybe eight or nine stories would be suitable for the property.

Buckhorn suggested the city could do better in light of the larger West River project and the development momentum of the city in general.

"We believe it's in the best interest of the community to wait until the Tampa Housing Authority and Related's projects are further along before requesting parties for another round" of requests for proposals, said Buckhorn, who leaves office next Wednesday because of term limits and will be succeeded by former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

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Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times