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Tampa council approves land sale for riverfront tower

TAMPA — The City Council unanimously voted Thursday to sell about 1 acre of city land to two developers planning to build a 36-story apartment tower overlooking the Hillsborough River.

Supporters say the tower planned by Greg Minder and Phillip Smith will bring an estimated 500 residents to downtown Tampa and generate about $1 million a year in property taxes.

The $81 million construction project also is expected to give Tampa officials the opportunity to untangle traffic on Cass and Tyler streets by making both into two-way streets.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn says that re-configuration will make both streets safer and create more inviting walkways between the Riverwalk, the Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

No one spoke against the proposal before the council's vote.

"This project is another step in the evolution of what makes Tampa a great city," said architect Mickey Jacob, who told the council it would make downtown more vibrant, create jobs, generate business for downtown restaurants and create a more walkable environment.

Straz Center chief operating officer Lorrin Shepard said the street work that comes with the tower would make possible three goals that the Straz has worked on for seven or eight years. It would allow for an expansion of the car arrival plaza at the center. It would make Tyler and Cass more local, with less pass-through traffic. And it would create a better connection between the center, Curtis Hixon park and the museums at the park.

"We currently feel like there's a divide between us, Curtis Hixon park and the museums," he said.

The land being sold is a city-owned triangle just behind the annex to the John F. Germany Public Library. It includes the existing intersection at the entrance to the Straz, two landscaped medians and a curve in the road where one-way traffic going west on Tyler curls around to head back east on Cass.

The $4 million the city will get for the land is twice its appraised value, which has been put at nearly $1.45 million to about $2 million.

Minder and Phillips plan a tower with 350 apartments, 10,000 square feet of stores and restaurants on the ground floor, five parking decks with 600 parking spaces above that, and a tower with 350 apartments on top. Construction could be done by the end of 2014.

Because the tower would be more than 120 feet tall, the City Council will get another chance to consider its design at a rezoning hearing.

Developers say they are looking at a tower featuring Art Deco elements, and council members suggested they're off to a good start, especially when their project is compared with the car-centric and suburban sprawl-friendly planning of the past.

"I think this is a great example of urban design," council member Mary Mulhern said. "It's almost like maybe we're finally getting there."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813) 226-3403.