TAMPA - City Council members listened to more than 70 people debate before voting on a controversial rezoning for a nine-story condominium and retail project in Hyde Park early Friday morning.
The decision, which came after a public comment period that lasted more than five hours, was not reached by press time.
Lawyers, architects and other supporters argued that the rezoning would revitalize the struggling retail park. Homeowners and neighborhood leaders, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, passionately opposed such a large scale and high-density structure in a historic district.
"We have to make this area an exception," Hyde Park Village developer David Wasserman said. "Aren't these the kinds of things that make Tampa special?"
Wasserman Real Estate Capital, which owns Hyde Park Village, asked to build a $100-million upscale complex of shops and two condominium towers up to nine stories high.
The project will add 163 residences, split among the now-closed movie theaters on Swann Avenue and the parking garage on Rome Avenue. The developer also wants to add more office and retail space and include public art in the plans.
Neighborhood residents and those who serve on historic preservation boards have rallied against the change, objecting to the condos' height and population density.
The city's Architectural Review Commission, which evaluates development in historic districts, has twice rejected the developer's plans for being incompatible, but their opinion is only a recommendation. It is the City Council that gives the official stamp of approval.
The developers brought out big guns for their lobbying effort, recruiting former Gov. Bob Martinez, who was mayor of Tampa when Hyde Park Village was built, and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, whose district included Hyde Park.
Both the politicians work for the developer's law firm, Holland & Knight. They met with city officials and pressed the case for the project individually with residents.
Early in the evening, before the public comment period began, City Council member Joseph Caetano made his stance on the project clear.
"The mayor keeps saying we're the next great city," he said. "We'll never be the next great city if we keep voting no to projects like this."