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Downtown may scale new height

A developer has unveiled plans for a 510-foot high, 42-story tower with a rooftop restaurant.

SHARON L. BOND
Published June 24, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - In a high-rise project that would dwarf other downtown buildings, a local developer filed plans Monday for a 42-story residential tower with a rooftop restaurant.

At 510 feet, Bayway Lofts would rise some 125 feet above the city's next highest building. Kitty-corner from the popular BayWalk development, the tower would mark another major step in the effort to transform downtown into more of a residential destination.

Grady Pridgen, known for his commercial parks in north St. Petersburg, submitted plans for the $50-million project to the city on Monday. It would have 277 units that would range from $200,000 to $500,000, with most above $300,000.

An exterior elevator would transport diners to the restaurant on the roof.

"It will be a new look for St. Petersburg, more modern," Pridgen, 44, said Monday.

It also will be a new height. The Bank of America building is the city's tallest structure at 386 feet. Pridgen's Bayway Lofts would be almost as tall as the Bank of America building with one of the Vinoy Place towers stacked on top.

Bayway Lofts will have its first hearing in August, before the city's Environmental Development Commission. In addition, Pridgen must receive clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration because the site is in the flight path for Albert Whitted Airport.

Pridgen said the building, several blocks from Tampa Bay, has to be high in order to offer waterfront views. Two other highrises - each 30 or so stories - are planned closer to the bay. Opus South Corp. is building in both the 300 and 400 blocks of Beach Drive NE and hopes to begin construction on one tower by year's end.

In the past five years, three luxury condominium projects have been finished along with a luxury rental complex and numerous smaller developments. That resulted in nearly 600 new residences downtown. If all planned projects are built, downtown will get another 600 units.

More people moving downtown means more services are needed. BayWalk offers entertainment and retail. Downtown soon will have a new Publix grocery store.

Pridgen, who just bought baseball star Dwight Gooden's house for $1-million, said he is not competing with Opus because his lofts will be less expensive.

"We are talking a totally different market," said Pridgen, adding that renters who already pay a few thousand dollars a month for an apartment could afford one of his lofts.

Opus spokesman Jerry T. Shaw was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Mayor Rick Baker said he was not surprised about another downtown residential project. He said he had not seen any plans or sketches of Bayway Lofts but that Pridgen told him several months ago he had a residential project in the planning stages.

Baker said the proposed height of the building does not bother him.

"It's way off Beach Drive and the waterfront. I don't think it requires any variances."

In the current plans, the front of the building features a web of steel tubing that points up beyond the building's top. It has lights and will be decorative as well as shield some of the units.

Although Bayway Lofts would overshadow other downtown buildings, several buildings in Tampa would remain taller, including the 579-foot AmSouth Building, which is the tallest building in the Tampa Bay area.

Bayway Lofts is planned for a site at Third Avenue N between Second and Third streets, where several empty houses stand. Pridgen said two of the houses will be moved to other locations and the rest of the buildings torn down.

This is the same site where developer Robert McGrath planned 16 townhomes several years ago but could not get the project going. Pridgen said the site, purchased late last year, should be ready in about three months. Most of the units in Bayway Lofts will be two-bedroom, two-bath residences, from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. The units will be placed six to eight a floor. There will be 10 townhomes on the second floor.

The building will back up to the Huntington Townhomes, three-story residences that pretty much marked the beginning of the residential renaissance downtown. Pridgen said he had not talked with any Huntington residents.

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