Opposition builds toward proposed apartment tower in downtown Tampa

In January the (now former) president of Friends of Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County, Jan Platt, wrote to Buckhorn requesting a meeting with their board, along with representatives of the Straz Center, Glaziers Childrens Museum and Tampa Museum of Art. Platt, who also served on the Tampa City Council, wanted to discuss everyone's concerns, specifically about how the development could affect parking for library users.

That meeting never happened, something that Platt is very unhappy about. She also said the building will be a major buzzkill for patrons who attend a performance at Tampa's performing arts center.

"Think about when you leave the Straz after you've had a wonderful night of music or dancing or seeing a Broadway show," Platt said. "What will you look at when you walk out of the Straz Theatre? You're going to see the shops and the parking garage for that high rise. That's what you're going to look at? That is tacky. When you walk out of the Mahaffey in St. Pete, you see a park, you see boat masts, you see the Bay, it's beautiful. But we're going to see the shops that are going to be on the first floor of a parking garage that will be an apartment or a condo complex. It's thoughtless ... it's clueless."

"The scale and scope don't make sense," claimed Lew Sibert, who lives at SkyPoint, the downtown Tampa highrise condominium. Sibert also said that "the process absolutely stinks," referring to the fact that the developers were the only ones to make a bid on the city's request for proposal. They are offering $4 million to the city to acquire the land. Several other SkyPoint residents told CL that they also are unhappy about the proposed development.

At the initial hearing before City Council on Jan. 17, the CEO for the Straz, Lorrin Shepherd, told Council members that hi board of directors unanimously voted in favor of the proposal. The Tampa Bay Times reported on Tuesday that though Shepherd believes the street plan is a good idea, the Straz has been "hearing also from our patrons" regarding the elevated walkway (CL reached out to the Straz last week for comment but never heard back).

CL spoke briefly with David Straz, the man whose name adorns the performing arts center complex. He said he just returned back from being out of town, and wasn't prepared to comment.

Because this building is more than 120 feet in height, the developers have to return before the Council to do a rezoning, which takes place this Thursday night — though the elevated walkway is not supposed to be the focus at this week's hearing.

(This post originally misspelled Lorrin Shepherd's name as Lauren).

click to enlarge Jan Platt - Eileen Thornton/USF Libraries
Eileen Thornton/USF Libraries
Jan Platt

click to enlarge Jan Platt - Eileen Thornton/USF Libraries
Eileen Thornton/USF Libraries
Jan Platt

In January, the Tampa City Council voted unanimously to sell one acre of land to two developers looking to build a 36-story apartment tower overlooking the Hillsborough River, just west of the John F. Germany Public Library. But as the issue goes back before the Council this week at a rezoning hearing, some of the residents who live the area are expressing their unhappiness about the project, including the fact that they haven't been given an opportunity by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to express their displeasure.

On Monday, members with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Board and the Straz Center met with developers Greg Minder of InTown Group and Phillip Smith of Framework Group. The organizations' representatives primarily discussed their concerns about maintaining access of a sky-walk that goes from the John F. Germany Public Library and the Straz to the William F. Poe Parking Garage.

But there are other concerns amongst those who live the area, and those who patronize the library.

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