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Condo owner's suit claiming Riverwalk high-rise will block view is dismissed

TAMPA — A judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit from a Skypoint condo owner who said a planned nearby high-rise tower would block his "sweeping views of the Hillsborough River."

Plaintiff John P. Baker bought his 15th-floor condominium in 2012 for $255,000. He had complained the 400-foot-tall Residences at the Riverwalk would be only 600 feet away.

Baker also contended that the 36-story apartment tower would be out of scale with surrounding buildings, inconsistent with the city's comprehensive plan and incompatible with the rest of the city's arts and cultural district.

The suit, filed in September, had been scheduled for trial in mid May.

But Hillsborough Circuit Judge James M. Barton II concluded Baker failed to establish that he had standing to sue the city and the developers. Even if what he claimed were true, Barton wrote, Baker wouldn't suffer injuries different from those of the community at large.

Moreover, the judge said, Baker's assertion "that his view will be obstructed" is not a reason recognized by the law as sufficient to bring the case.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomed the dismissal as "a confirmation of our shared vision for an active, vibrant riverfront."

"It will allow us and the developers to continue forward, reshaping our urban core in the interest of the entire community," Buckhorn said in a written statement. "The Residences on the Riverwalk will activate a vacant space and create new residential and retail possibilities."

The project also will allow the city to fix traffic problems in the area and to create a connection from the north to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Buckhorn said.

The City Council voted in August to approve plans for the tower's 380 apartments, 620-space parking garage and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants. Officials expect it to bring about 500 residents downtown and generate about $1 million a year in property taxes.

To create the tower's footprint, the city has agreed to sell about an acre of city land where Tyler and Cass streets now merge in front of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

Money from that $4 million sale will be used to transform both Tyler and Cass, now one-way streets with fast-moving traffic, into two-way streets where traffic is slower.

Traffic that now heads west on Tyler to cross the Cass Street Bridge will go on Cass instead. Meanwhile, Tyler is expected to become more of a local street that serves the Straz Center and the tower.

Once the roads are reconfigured into a more traditional grid, the tower will be built inside a city block created inside the area.

Developers have agreed not to start work until at least June so they don't disrupt the Straz Center's Broadway series. Minder said Wednesday he didn't have a definitive start date, but said discussions with the city and plans for road work have been ongoing.