Plan for Safety Harbor a tall order
By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
SAFETY HARBOR -- A developer with grand plans for a high-rise office, shop and condominium project overlooking Old Tampa Bay has come up against a City Commission that thinks it may be too tall.
Orlando-based Village Partners this week unveiled plans for a 168,000-square-foot, mixed-use Harborside at Safety Harbor project that would sit at Bayshore Boulevard and Main Street.
The project, which could cost as much as $20-million, would include 40 condominiums, a 2,500-square-foot restaurant that could offer rooftop dining and a cocktail terrace, as well as 12,680 square feet of office and commercial space.
But plans to develop one of the last prime pieces of downtown property went back to the drawing board this week after problems arose over how high the project would be.
Village Partners envisions Harborside at Safety Harbor rising taller than five stories. The city's Downtown Redevelopment Plan limits building heights to three stories.
"The project is a little bit too grand at this point for that piece of property," said Commissioner Robin Borland. "But I know we're going to be working with them in the future."
A month earlier Village Partners executives invited residents, city and business leaders to offer ideas on how to develop the property.
The company has a contract to buy 3 acres along a portion of Iron Age Street from Walter Loick for $700,000 to $1-million per acre.
"I think after the (last month's meeting) they have done a very good job of incorporating a number of things the city wants," said Mayor Pam Corbino. "My one serious drawback is our height limit is three stories and they have (almost) six stories."
As a possible remedy, Village Partners officials said they plan to bring the model's height down to three-and-a-half stories by eliminating four condominium units and dropping the development 6 feet below street level.
"We don't mind," said John H. Marling, chairman of Investors Realty, which owns Village Partners. "We just want to make sure that it's a real attractive plan and that we don't water it down to where it doesn't have it's same appeal in the market."
The design proposal, presented to commissioners and residents at a work session Monday night, also called for 260 parking spaces; 87 of which would be for residents and 173 for retail and office units.
"The other issue I think we're going to have to look further at is the traffic impact," Commissioner Neil Brickfield said. "I'm interested in seeing what they come back with because a developer is only going to build what is economically viable and I'm interested in seeing how they are going to tackle that."
A traffic study, Marling said, will be conducted after the site plan is approved.
Plans also make accommodations for both a public plaza and the relocation of Iron Age Street.
Some residents thought the street, used as an access street to the neighborhood west of the site, would be eliminated with the new development. Renderings move the street to flow between the two proposed condominium buildings.
"My sense was that the majority of citizens and commissioners were excited about it," said Vice Mayor Keith Zayac. "I get the sense that they are interested in hearing what the citizens have to say rather than shoving it down our throats."
Negotiations between Loick, who lives in North Carolina, and the city on ways to develop the long-vacant land have stalled.
Almost two years ago, Loick joined a partnership with a Tampa developer to build a 75,000-square-foot, waterfront village. But the deal fell short when advance sales of the condominiums, which were to start at $300,000, did not materialize.
Loick could not be reached for comment.
"I'm excited to see the next step," Zayac said. "Hopefully, they can find a way to reduce the height a little bit and hopefully we can move forward because it's just what the downtown needs."
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