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City says the stone has to go at St. Pete's new Oak & Stone restaurant

The city of St. Petersburg wants Oak & Stone to remove the stone facade on the pillars near the restaurant's main entrance at 199 Central Ave, St. Petersburg. [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times]
The city of St. Petersburg wants Oak & Stone to remove the stone facade on the pillars near the restaurant's main entrance at 199 Central Ave, St. Petersburg. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Oct. 5, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — It will still be "Oak & Stone" but the stone will soon be gone.

The owners of a popular new restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg have agreed — reluctantly — to strip the stone veneer from three columns that the city says are currently incompatible with the rest of the building, a Hyatt Place hotel.

"We are disappointed to have to remove the beautiful stonework and part of our namesake from the exterior of our downtown St. Pete location," owners Brett Decklever and Joe Seidensticker said in a statement Friday. ''We feel it is inviting and attractive and also part of our brand name."

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The Hyatt, which opened a year ago at 25 2nd St. N, is built in a sleek modern style with white-stuccoed walls and large aluminum-trimmed windows. An area on the southwest corner of the building was set aside for Oak & Stone.

In March, an architect for the restaurant emailed the city's urban design chief, Corey Malyszka, about adding stone veneer to the existing columns. Malyszka told him that wouldn't be allowed because design regulations in the downtown area require any modifications to "complement or match the architectural style of the building."

Nonetheless, the restaurant opened in July with columns encased in chunks of stone to a height of about eight feet. After receiving a notice of violation, the restaurant applied for an after-the fact variance.

"Oak & Stone realized it was a mistake on their part so they went through the proper channels to try to keep the facade," said Lynn Kilroy, a spokesperson for the restaurant.

City staffers denied the variance, throwing in a bit of history.

"Modern architecture is based on the rejection of traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century," a staff analysis said. "Modern architecture is defined with an emphasis on form, clean lines and minimal ornamentation."

The analysis noted that while stone veneer had been used on some modern buildings, its installation on Oak & Stone's exterior columns "is inconsistent with the materials used on the rest of the hotel building."

Oak & Stone appealed to the city's Development Review Commission, contending that tenants in nearby buildings had been allowed to use materials and finishes inconsistent with the architectural styles. Across the street is the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art, where huge sandstone slabs and turquoise-colored panels have been added to what was once a squat office building and parking garage.

The commission was to consider the appeal this week but the restaurant owners decided to remove the stone. Still in place will be the self-serve "beer wall" and pizza-anchored menu that have quickly made Oak & Stone a gathering spot.

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"We're so proud to be part of the downtown St. Petersburg community," the owners' statement said. "As a new community member, we've already hired 125 local staff." The restaurant also supports the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Academy Prep St. Pete, a middle school for low-income students.

St. Petersburg is the second location for Oak & Stone. The other is in Sarasota — and it will keep its stone columns.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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