Hyde Park plan gets power duo

A former governor and former U.S. representative argue for a development that many residents dislike.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 4, 2007

TAMPA - Former Gov. Bob Martinez and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis have joined a team fighting to redevelop a chunk of Hyde Park Village.

Martinez and Davis work for Holland & Knight, a law firm hired by Wasserman Real Estate Capital to help with the controversial project that many residents say is too big for the historic neighborhood.

Davis said he and Martinez have met with city officials to get background on the project and are trying to win the support of neighbors.

"I've literally been on the phone and speaking in person to people in the neighborhood," Davis said. "I have represented for years many of the people in Hyde Park, which is a wonderful community, and people have legitimate concerns."

The $100-million plan for the upscale complex includes new shops and 163 condos and townhouses in two buildings, one at the site of the now-closed movie theaters on Swann Avenue and another in place of the parking garage on Rome Avenue.

Davis served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1988 until 1996, when he was elected to Congress. He ran unsuccessfully against Charlie Crist for governor last year.

Martinez was mayor of Tampa when Hyde Park Village was built in the 1980s. He was Florida's governor from 1987 to 1991.

Wasserman's project has been pitched as an opportunity to revitalize the struggling residential and retail center.

"The project has merit," Davis said. "The debate is over the details."

Patrick Cimino, president of Hyde Park Preservation Inc., said he supports redevelopment of Hyde Park Village, but the current proposal isn't appropriate.

"It's interesting that men of their stature in a local community are doing something that isn't in our best interests as a historic neighborhood," Cimino said. "It's a posture that all development's good."

No amount of lobbying will change his mind, he said.

"If they got Gov. Crist to come down and speak on their behalf, it wouldn't change a lot of positions," Cimino said.

The city's Architectural Review Commission, which evaluates development in historic districts, has twice rejected the developer's plans, the first time in May.

Wasserman came back in November with a scaled-down plan, dropping the height of a 10-story tower to nine stories, and reducing the number of residential units. A second tower went from nine stories to eight.

More than 70 people turned up at City Hall to weigh in on the second proposal, with most opposing it.

The review commission makes recommendations to the City Council, which can accept or ignore them when considering a rezoning application.

Attorney Jim Shimberg, who's leading the Holland & Knight team, said he doesn't know if the high-powered duo will appear before the Tampa City Council at a rezoning hearing on Dec. 13.

"It hasn't been determined yet who's going to do what," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.