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  1. St. Petersburg

Another tower planned for downtown St. Petersburg

The parking lot for the Christ United Methodist Church is being sold to a developer, who plans a mixed-use building from 18 to 25 stories. [Times 2017]
The parking lot for the Christ United Methodist Church is being sold to a developer, who plans a mixed-use building from 18 to 25 stories. [Times 2017]
Published Mar. 7, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Another tower is on the horizon for the city's downtown, rising where churchgoers now park for Sunday services and promising critical office space that's in short supply.

The 18- to 25-story structure also will include retail space on the ground floor, several floors of rental apartments, a hotel and as many as 300 spaces for public parking.

The DeNunzio Group, based in Palm Harbor and Cambridge, Mass., is behind the project being planned for the Christ United Methodist Church parking lot on the southeast corner of First Avenue N and Fifth Street.

For company president Dustin DeNunzio, it's an optimum piece of real estate.

"We think that this location, right next to City Hall, right next Central Avenue, really, right in the heart of downtown St. Pete, is the perfect location for a true mixed-use project," he said.

But much needs to be done on its way to becoming a reality.

Thursday the City Council took the first step when it approved a preliminary, non-binding agreement in which the city would spend $9 million for parking spaces on about four floors of the new tower. The arrangement goes back to a 2016 parking study that recommended increasing parking through public-private partnerships. It is also part of an effort to boost private development in categories the city wants to encourage, like office space.

"It's a rare moment in time where we have an interesting collaboration. The church is working with the developer and the developer is working with the city," said Alan DeLisle, the city's development administrator. He added that the project would help the city's push toward more downtown parking and office space.

The city plans to pay for the new parking through the Intown Tax Increment Financing and parking revenues. It will own the parking spaces and be paid 15 percent of the annual net profits generated from the public spaces. DeNunzio would also be required to provide parking to meet zoning requirements for the retail, hotel and residential components. Office users will be allowed to use the public parking.

Renderings are not yet available, DeNunzio said.

"The driving force will be the parking. How many floors it would be. Right now, we are not sure how much hotel and how much residential," he said.

The Christ Church lot is the second property DeNunzio has plans for in the city's downtown. The other is at Fifth Avenue N and First Street. That project will likely be a combination of retail, hotel and residential space, DeNunzio said.

The centrally located property near City Hall, though, lends itself to office space, he said. At least 40,000 square feet of office space is planned.

"We look for a lot of factors when we develop and St. Pete, it really has the best of all worlds, as far as a city to work and live," DeNunzio said.

"It has the right blend of tourism, the right blend of sports, the museums, the water and there's a robust restaurant and nightlife. And so, if we can produce the office space, I think it is a very, very desirable location for employees to live and work right in the same area."

Related coverage: Marriott hotel planned for new downtown St. Pete tower

The DeNunzio Group has a contract with Christ Church to buy the 0.65-acre parking lot for $5.3 million and expects to close in about 90 to 120 days.

The agreement with the church will allow members to park free on Sundays and certain other times. DeNunzio said he wants to work with the historic downtown church to make sure they also have access for parking for special events and other occasions "so they can play even more of a role in the community."

It was about a year ago that the Christ Church announced that it had signed a contract with another firm, Miles River Development, for $5.65 million. DeNunzio said when that deal fell through, he was approached by Jon Wittner, managing director for KW Commercial Tampa Bay, which had the listing.

The Rev. Jacqueline Jones-Smith described the new agreement with DeNunzio as a "a desired and welcomed occurrence in the revitalization of Christ Church." She added that it is also "a fundamental step toward achieving our goal as a significant stakeholder in St. Petersburg."

The two St. Petersburg projects represent the latest in the area for DeNunzio, who grew up in Palm Harbor. In a few months, his company is planning to break ground on a six-story waterfront project that will include a Hilton Hampton Inn, destination restaurant, 31 residential units and 100-slip marina on Maderia Beach.

Two years ago the firm opened a Marriot Fairfield Inn and Suites on Clearwater Beach.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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