ST. PETERSBURG — Apartments, parking, a hotel, office space, shops, art studios, a plaza, even a food hall.
That’s what could go on the grounds of St. Petersburg’s old police headquarters, which is being abandoned as the department moves into its new digs across the street.
What won’t be included? Affordable housing, at least to any significant extent.
The 2-acre lot between Central Avenue and First Avenue N on the west side of 13th Street is poised to become the centerpiece of the exploding Edge District. Seven ambitious proposals to redevelop the property call for mixed-use development that would all facilitate Mayor Rick Kriseman’s “live, work, play” mantra.
Despite the city’s urging to incorporate affordable housing, not a single plan makes a serious commitment.
City officials listed several requirements when they put the project out for bid in January: ground-floor retail along Central Avenue, about 300 public parking spaces, office space and outdoor civic space. The development would also have to meet the city’s sustainability standards, and officials suggested proposals could include a hotel and usable rooftop space.
The city also suggested developers work in housing that accommodates different income levels: market-rate housing, workforce housing and affordable housing. Workforce housing, as city officials used the term, means housing for families making 80 to 120 percent of the median income in Pinellas County. Affordable housing means low-income housing available to families making less than 80 percent.
Two proposals — by Waverly Capital and Harrod Properties — don’t include any housing at all, relying on office space to anchor the projects. A third plan, pitched by Altis Cardinal that includes a 250-unit apartment building, promises only about a dozen units of workforce housing and none at the affordable level. A plan by Milhaus Development to build a 200-unit building reserves only 15 for workforce and affordable housing, though a further breakdown isn’t provided.
Two plans promise to make sizable investments into workforce housing, though neither incorporate units at the affordable level. A developer called 1301 Central Avenue designated 50 apartments within a 270-unit building to workforce housing. And Edge Central Development’s plan includes 104 workforce units. The 40 higher-end condominiums will have exclusive use of the pool.
The seventh proposal, from Midtown Real Estate 1, said the 180 units it plans to build would include “lofts, micro units and standard flat design for 1 and 2 bedrooms,” though it did not delineate how many would be reserved for affordable- or workforce-eligible families. Dan Harvey Jr., whose family owns Harvey’s 4th Street Grill and who is listed as the contact person for the Midtown Real Estate proposal, could not be reached for clarification.
Altis Cardinal founder Frank Guerra suggested financing affordable housing projects is a distraction. He thinks St. Petersburg needs more office space that’s completely customizable if it wants to attract large companies to the area and compete with Tampa.
“That’s what we think is holding the city back,” he said.
Getting subsidies through government low income housing programs would take up to two years, he said. That’s too long to wait.
“We think St. Pete is on the front end of its growth spurt," Guerra said. “We don’t want to deal with (government programs that) slow up the pace of our development."
Though it won’t consider affordable housing, Guerra said Altis would be open to working with the city to increase the workforce housing numbers.
Jugal Taneja of Waverly Capital said its proposal didn’t include any housing because a lot of units already exist in that area or are being developed.
Harrod Properties, which specializes in medical office space, had a similar reason for not including any housing. Its proposal said too much housing would “lead to an over-developed site that is not consistent (in our opinion) with the feel of the area."
Representatives at 1301 Central Avenue, Milhaus and Edge Central did not return calls.
St. Petersburg Development Administrator Alan DeLisle said officials will consider the developers’ commitment to affordable and workforce housing when weighing the proposals. But it won’t be the only thing.
“We’ll take a look at that, and we’ll take a look at a lot of other factors that were in that," he said. “We have other priorities in addition to the affordable and workforce residential component: job creation, office space, retail along Central Avenue.”
He said once a developer is picked, the city can negotiate the housing component. The city hopes to choose a developer by the end of the year.
Aside from the housing differences, each proposal has its own flavor. Three incorporate a boutique hotel. There’s the 17,000-square-foot, two-story food hall Altis said would be designed by the same architect that drew up the plans for widely praised Armature Works in Tampa. Harrod wants to build a medical office building.
All the proposals have street-level retail space and a plethora of parking, both requirements from city officials. Six proposals include a rooftop element.
The pitches also have different strategies on how to acquire and utilize the property to the west of the police station, owned by railway giant CSX. City officials want their hands on that land, possibly to build a park.
The police station property would be leased to the developers during the construction phase, after which there would be an option to buy the land. Officials estimated the property to be worth $6.6 million.
Before the old police station is handed over to a developer, it will be converted into a makeshift City Hall. The real City Hall is set to undergo renovations to its HVAC systems starting this summer, so the city’s government will relocate to the old police headquarters for a few months.
Here’s a look at the renderings each developer submitted to the city: