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  1. News

Oxford Exchange prevails as Tampa City Council rejects next-door development

TAMPA — After a marathon — and contentious — six-hour hearing that lasted until midnight Friday, City Council voted 5-1 to deny the zoning change needed to build Altis Grand Central, a large mixed-use development project set to rise across from the Oxford Exchange.

"I think the issue has to do with the context of the neighborhood," said council member Harry Cohen.

Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin was absent at the vote. Charlie Miranda cast the only vote in dissent.

Oxford Exchange owner Blake Casper, who also owns 52 McDonald's restaurants, has led the fight against the buildings that would go up across from his popular eatery and hangout spot at 420 W Kennedy Blvd. He even launched the #TampaDeservesBetter social media campaign to rally opposition to the development.

He helped draw an overflow crowd that packed into City Council chambers around 6 p.m. Thursday for the meeting. When people were asked if they were there to speak on a project, the entire room stood up.

The majority were there to oppose the project.

"Let us maintain the grandeur that exists on Grand Central Avenue," said Mary McCahon, a Tampa Heights resident and an architectural historian.

Tampa General Hospital, Buddy Brew Coffee and the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association all weighed in against the project, while the First Baptist Church of Tampa came out in support.

Altis Grand Central was proposed as a 2.5-acre high-end, multi-family and retail project at 204 Grand Central Ave. that was to include two apartment buildings, five and six stories tall. Between the two buildings would have been be a nine-story parking garage, topped with a pool, spa, bowling alley and fitness club for residents.

The North Hyde Park site is south of Grand Central Avenue, north of W Cleveland Street, and between S Magnolia and S Cedar avenues.

Boca Raton-based Altman Company had intended to begin construction in spring 2016 and to move the first residents in by summer 2017. The developers said they adjusted the plans in order to "complement the existing character of the community," but that didn't satisfy the opposition, or City Council.

"Based on what we heard from the citizens it doesn't sound like there were a lot of concessions on your side," council member Lisa Montelione told Altman representatives before the vote.