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St. Pete homeowners, preservationists win first round in battle to block 7-story apartment building

The only access would be via a narrow court lined with vintage houses.
Developers of a proposed apartment complex near St. Petersburg's Mirror Lake area want to tear down this bungalow and replace it with a ramp to the parking garage. [Susan Taylor Martin]
Developers of a proposed apartment complex near St. Petersburg's Mirror Lake area want to tear down this bungalow and replace it with a ramp to the parking garage. [Susan Taylor Martin]
Published Dec. 6, 2019
Updated Dec. 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — In the battles between developers and preservationists, chalk one up for the preservationists — and homeowners near St. Petersburg’s Mirror Lake.

This week, the city’s Development Review Commission agreed with the two groups that a proposed 7-story, 126-unit apartment building at the corner of Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue N would cause traffic problems and lack “sensitivity'' to nearby single-story houses, some dating to the early 1900s. Commissioners upheld two appeals that challenged approval of the project by city staffers.

”I can’t give this project support when there are so many concerns out there,'' commissioner Freddy Cuevas said.

RELATED: St. Pete panel approves $69-million tower that would replace affordable apartments

A land trust paid $1.8 million last year for an L-shaped parcel that currently contains CC’s Bridal Boutique and a 103-year-old bungalow. The apartments would replace CC’s and the bungalow would be torn down to make way for a ramp leading into the building’s parking garage.

CC's Bridal Boutique, the proposed site of a 7-story apartment building. [Susan Taylor Martin]

“It makes sense to redevelop CC’s," commissioner Darren Stowe said, “but it does seem excessive development that you have to grab that one home for a ramp.”

Also sparking concern was that the only way vehicles could access the apartment building would be by turning right from Eighth, a one-way street going north, onto narrow Calla Terrace. They then would have to turn left onto even narrower one-way Moffett Court to get to the ramp. The only way out would be north on Moffett. Residents along Moffett would see just the hulking back of the apartment building, whose balconies would face the main streets.

Moffett Court. a narrow one-way street lined with old homes, would be the only way out for tenants in a proposed 7-story apartment building. [Susan Taylor Martin]

“I can see a big problem on this one way, very narrow street with garbage trucks,” said commissioner Chuck Flynt. "and now you’re going from an open environment to a very larger vertical mass.''

Resident also said the city should have studied the impact a 126-unit building would have on traffic. They said cars often speed up on Eighth Street to catch the light near an interstate entrance ramp and streak along Fourth Avenue, a main thoroughfare to downtown St. Petersburg.

"Do they know how dangerous this corner is?'' Debi Mazur asked of the developers. One of the residents who appealed city staff approval of the project, she said there had been 13 accidents there so far this year.

Peter Belmont of Preserve the ‘Burg, which filed the other appeal, said the project was not sensitive to the older houses on Moffett and streets to the east. "This is a great piece of our downtown national historic district,'’ he said, later adding that "this neighborhood is indeed special. Let’s keep it like that.''

City staffers and representatives of the developers noted that the proposed apartments would be across the street from the Portland, a 12-story apartment building, and directly north of new townhomes that replaced some houses dating to the 1930s.

"This part of the city has been deemed appropriate for this density and development,'' said Kathryn Younkin of the architectural firm Behar + Peteranecz, which designed the proposed apartments. "This block has been greatly altered over time.''

The developers have not said whether they will appeal to the City Council.

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