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St. Peter's drops condo project

The downtown St. Petersburg church considers moving, among other things.

By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published March 25, 2007


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The decade-long struggle of St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral to redevelop its downtown campus is back to the drawing board.

The cathedral has ended its agreement with a developer to build a high-rise condominium and six-level garage on the site of a former Baptist church.

The plan would have provided St. Peter's with extra space and additional parking, which it says it needs to remain a viable downtown congregation.

Faced with climbing interest rates, a slowing real estate market and soaring construction costs, St. Peter's and Cathedral Partners LLC, a subsidiary of the Bullard Group, were forced to rethink the multimillion-dollar project at 140 Fourth St. N.

"We did a very gentle separation from them," said the Very Rev. Russell Johnson, dean of the cathedral. "We did have to pay them something for the studies they did. They were gentle and kind, just as we were in the relationship from the beginning to the end."

St. Peter's building committee is now looking at other options. Among them:

- Selling the property and moving from downtown.

- Selling just the historic former Baptist church.

- Approaching the City Council once again to discuss demolition of the former Baptist church.

- Upgrading just a portion of the cathedral's campus.

Additionally, Johnson said, "We have a person in the community who is a philanthropist who is trying to help us get the space we need."

"I do think that probably what the future looks like is some renovation to the courtyard building, and that will buy us some time," he said.

"The issue still remains that you've got to find parking and renovate space for the congregation. We have to consider all the options. We're doing that in a very detailed way."

He expects a decision in the next two or three months.

The church's most recent proposal had been to build a 22-story condo tower with a six-level garage on the site of the former First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg.

After years of struggle, the congregation eventually won a controversial City Council decision that would allow it to raze the historic church if members could raise money for the project.

The developer would have been allowed to build a tower that included 80 condos priced between $300,000 and $1-million. St. Peter's would have gained 51,700 square feet in the new building for a parish hall, nursery, kitchen, new chapel and other facilities.

St. Peter's historic Gothic revival cathedral would have remained untouched.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 727 892-2283 or moore@sptimes.com

[Last modified March 24, 2007, 20:35:54]


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