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Temple Terrace applauds progress on downtown project

TEMPLE TERRACE — A round of applause from the audience followed the recent vote by the Temple Terrace City Council to negotiate a contract with a company that plans to build and manage luxury apartments in the long-idle downtown redevelopment area.

The residents, many of them council meeting regulars who have followed the ups and downs of this saga for 15 years, were celebrating what appears to be new hope in the effort to fill the empty acreage in the swath of land on the east side of 56th Street that stretches from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.

"We made some monumental progress tonight,'' said City Manager Charles Stephenson. "I will sleep good tonight.''

If the deal goes through as expected, Richman Group will pay the city $3 million for 4.86 acres of land off Bullard, at the northeast corner of the development, and build about 200 high-end apartments. In July, the city will close on the sale of 2.56 acres on the northwest corner for $3.58 million. The Paragon Property Group plans to build a bank and retail stores there.

Together, the two sales should reap more than $6.1 million for the city, which can use it to pay down a $10 million loan the city closed on this week with Republic Bank.

Without a pay-down, the loan would come with a whopping balloon payment of more than $10 million in 2023. It's one of two loans totalling about $23.5 million, money the city originally borrowed last decade to buy and improve 29 acres in the downtown redevelopment area.

The city recently refinanced the loan through two banks. It took out a $14 million loan with the second bank, CenterState, to be paid off over 20 years. After the Republic loan is paid off, the city will have to pay about $1,041,000 a year in principal and interest, according to Finance Director Lyn Boswell, who noted that there is no penalty for paying it off early.

The city's real estate broker, Patrick Berman with Cushman & Wakefield, touted the Richman Group for building high-quality luxury apartments and managing and maintaining them.

"They've been around for 60-plus years,'' he said in a meeting prior to the May 15 council session. "They're extremely reputable, high integrity level. They are also long-time holders. They don't build and sell. They build and they hold long-term.''

Ely Banks of Richman Group, addressing the council, said that "curb appeal'' is very important to the company.

"We want to fit in. We want it to be beautiful. It's important this is a top of the line luxury apartment complex.''

It will be two four-story Mediterranean style buildings, about 116,000 square feet each.

It will have a resort-style pool and sun deck, private cabanas and spa, dog walking area, outdoor grilling stations, fire pit and wi-fi hot spots.

Rent would average $1,300 to $1,400 per month.

"We want everyone to love them and we want them to withstand the test of time.''

Residents addressing the City Council urged members to go forward with the plan.

"I'm most impressed with them,'' said Ron Govin, a former council member." To have somebody want to come in here and put in quality apartments, then maintain the properties themselves — I think it speaks highly for them.''

Maryrose Owens, a Temple Terrace resident for 44 years, said she loves the plans as presented.

"My lifetime will be short-lived, and I want to see something before I leave this world.''

Resident Richard Reina said, "I think we need to go ahead and get on it before the next downturn comes.''

Contact Phililp Morgan at