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Proposed apartment tower near Straz Center hits delay

Published May 10, 2013

TAMPA — An ambitious plan to build a 36-story apartment tower overlooking the Hillsborough River was delayed Thursday night amid questions about its impact on traffic, the riverfront and cultural arts institutions.

The City Council postponed votes on two aspects of the project until Aug. 8 after hearing concerns from representatives of the neighboring John F. Germany Public Library and David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

"The proposed scale of this project is so massive that it seems to us not only incompatible but aggressively incompatible with our riverfront and the community institutions that we have there," said John Mullen, a board member of the Friends of the John F. Germany Public Library.

Straz Center president Judith Lisi likewise urged a more deliberate approach, saying, "we have so much at stake here."

The Straz Center originally came up with the idea of reconfiguring Cass and Tyler streets to be safer and to give the center a bigger, better arrival plaza. But Lisi said it also originally envisioned a smaller project on the piece of city land that developers want to build on.

"This is a case of be careful what you wish for," Lisi said.

Yes, she said, getting the roads redone would be nice, but "we are very concerned about the scale of this project and what it is going to do that area and how it is going to really be a barrier between the Straz Center and the arts district and how it's going affect all of our patrons."

As proposed, the 380-apartment high-rise — called the Residences at the Riverwalk — would be built west of the library and south of the Straz Center. It would include a 620-space parking garage and 10,000 square feet of first-floor shops and restaurants.

Developers Greg Minder and Phillip Smith plan to buy an acre of land from the city for $4 million. Using the money from the sale, the city would spend an estimated $2 million reconfiguring Cass and Tyler streets into a safer grid of two-way streets.