Edge District hotel in St. Petersburg moves ahead despite parking issues

The 13-story boutique hotel’s plan for an onsite valet lot rankled nearby business owners worried about traffic.
This rendering from St. Petersburg developers Eastman Equity Holdings shows a proposed 13-story, 114-room hotel at 1111 Central Ave.
This rendering from St. Petersburg developers Eastman Equity Holdings shows a proposed 13-story, 114-room hotel at 1111 Central Ave. [ Alfonso Architects ]
Published Nov. 23, 2022|Updated Nov. 23, 2022

A 13-story, 114-room boutique hotel in St. Petersburg’s Edge District can move ahead with development, despite nearby business owners’ concerns about potential parking issues.

City Council gave unanimous approval to the project at its Nov. 10 meeting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, saying the purpose and aesthetic of the hotel at 1111 Central Ave. fit with the city’s redevelopment plan for the area.

Leaders with the Edge District Business Association agreed. But they took issue with a proposed valet parking lot just west of the hotel, which they said could clog traffic along that stretch of Central.

“This is a key area in our district, right next to the roundabout, where traffic is already congested,” board president Sean Mulligan said. “Having an onsite valet lot requiring ingress/egress on either Balm or Central avenues will cause traffic flow issues for the rest of the district’s residents and business owners.”

Related: 13-story boutique hotel proposed for St. Petersburg's Edge District

Board member and former City Council chairperson Leslie Curran said developers Eastman Equity Holding had agreed to a 10-year commitment for offsite valet parking — “and then at the last minute, really, they reneged.”

Eastman partner David Moore said investors behind the $26 million hotel balked at that 10-year window, especially since no cars will be parked there before 2024 at the earliest. To move ahead, the project needed a parking plan that met city code requirements, and the onsite valet lot accomplishes that.

“We will get offsite parking agreements going forward,” he said. “I didn’t come back to the Edge District with any ill will to do anything wrong, but it just really is not a good business decision right now.”

Valet parking at the hotel would be handled by Evolution Parking and Guest Services, a Tampa company that specializes in hotel valet service. Jack Kane, the group’s director of business development and client solutions, said that sort of traffic would be minimal, maybe a few dozen per day.

“I understand this can seem like a really difficult logistical problem,” Kane said. “But we routinely park over 200 cars a day at Hilton Tampa Downtown, at Hyatt Place Hyatt House Downtown, and nationwide, parking in densely urban areas with 300, 400 hotel rooms, much smaller zones and much more difficult offsite scenarios.”

The hotel is slated to go up on the site of a green space next to Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails, with the adjacent Baum Avenue Market building remade into a restaurant space. It would have a street-level public garden and walkway connecting Baum and Central avenues.

Curran said Wednesday that the Edge District Business Association doesn’t yet have another meeting on the books with developers to discuss the parking issue, but is confident it will happen. The city and association are in the early stages of developing a master plan for the Baum Avenue area, and Curran said parking at projects like this hotel will be a factor.

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“I think the Edge has shown that we favor development,” she said. “We just want smart developments and things that will work with residents and retailers.”

While the city’s vote of approval means the project can proceed with its existing parking plan, both sides and city officials agreed to keep looking for a solution that suited everyone.

“I still have concerns, but I do have some confidence in the conversations that have happened so far between the district board members and the developer and that team,” Driscoll said. “There’s more conversation to be had, and I hope they’ll continue talking.”