Environmental board okays school projects
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
ST. PETERSBURG -- An expanded St. Petersburg High School campus, a larger school bus depot and a replacement Shore Acres Elementary School were approved by the Environmental Development Commission on Wednesday.
The school system now operates a bus depot at 635 49th St. S and has acquired more land to expand it to accommodate buses needed for the choice plan. The project is scheduled for completion by July.
"I really don't want to be looking at 200 buses," said resident Ed Hoffman, who called the bus depot "a real nuisance."
To soften the change, the school system plans to install a 25-foot landscaped buffer along Sixth Avenue S and a 10-foot buffer along the Pinellas Trail and 49th Street.
A similar, deliberately polite negotiation was conducted about the style of fencing that would surround an expanded St. Petersburg High School campus.
As in other projects, the school system prefers chain link for its high security and low maintenance cost. The EDC, however, intensely dislikes chain link and pushes for something it considers more compatible to the neighborhood.
In the case of the high school site, which has grown from 17 to 24 acres through a $2.7-million land acquisition program, the EDC was only partially successful.
Commissioners wanted a low, landscaped wall to complement the Historic Kenwood neighborhood. What they got was chain link interspersed with Mediterranean Revival-style masonry columns. The district also promised them it would preserve as many of the old oaks on the expanded site as possible.
The school district has bought the land, which is already used informally for parking. When the work -- yet to be scheduled -- is done, the parking lot and new recreational areas will be bounded by Fifth and Seventh avenues N, 28th Street on the west and the school itself on the east. The street just west of the school, 26th Street, would be closed off.
Although school officials plan to officially increase student parking from 206 to 494 spaces, the reality won't change much because students already park on those lots. The project is in the school system's five-year master plan, but no construction date has been set because of lack of money.
The EDC also approved a site plan for the construction of a $10-million, 86,523-square-foot elementary school to replace the aging 1950s-era Shore Acres Elementary. The new school will be nearly half again as large.
The school system plans to replace all but three buildings and add additional parking as well as on-site bus queuing. Students will attend classes in existing buildings during construction, expected to be "substantially completed" by August 2004.
Among other items considered Wednesday were:
ST. PETERSBURG COLLEGE: A portion of 69th Street N between Fifth and Eighth avenues was vacated by the EDC to allow a larger, unified parking lot at the St. Petersburg College 66th Street campus. The reconfigured lot is part of the college's master plan, which will include a joint city-college library in the northeast section of the campus near Eagle Lake.
HOTEL PROJECT EXTENDED: For the third time since its 1999 approval of a site plan for a 178-room Sheraton Hotel at 12425 Roosevelt Blvd. N, the EDC granted the property owner a one-year extension. The extension was needed, according to an Industries Training Corp. representative, because of "uncertainty in the current hotel market" and an ongoing search for a viable developer.
WYNGATE APARTMENTS: A revised site plan and associated street and alley vacations for a proposed apartment complex at 110th Avenue and Third Street N was approved by the EDC. The 21.87-acre development will now include 264 walk-up units in nine separate multi-story buildings.
ECKERD DRUG STORE: A special exception and site plan for a proposed 14,178-square-foot Eckerd Drug Store at 3801 49th St. N was approved by the EDC. The now-closed Shell Oil filling station on a portion of the property will be demolished.
WATER STORAGE TANKS: The City of St. Petersburg gained EDC approval for the construction of two additional water storage tanks at the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility at 1160 62nd Ave. NE. The project had been approved by the city administration but was appealed by area residents. The city said it needed additional storage units because of recurring droughts and the need to maximize use of reclaimed water. The two 46-foot-tall tanks will be located on the southeast corner of the site and will be built over the next two to five years. EDC approval requires the tanks be screened from adjacent homes by trees and shrubbery.
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