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New project could fatten 'urban skeleton'

west tampa/north hyde park Revitalization talk includes housing, retail, offices.

By Courtney Herrig, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008


A project touting new apartments, townhomes and retail space has people in the West Tampa area talking of a revival in one of the city's oldestcommunities.

Morin Developers is building the mixed-use development, which will span nine blocks just west of downtown.

Initial plans call for 550 apartments, 79 townhomes, 340 condominiums and 25,000 square feet dedicated to local retailers, restaurants and office space. The first townhomes will be ready for occupancy in July and start at $380,000. Tentative rental rates for the apartments, called the Vintage Lofts, will start at $990 a month for a studio and $1,200 for a one-bedroom. Morin expects to break ground this year on its first condos in a four-story 59-unit mid-rise.

The site plan stretches roughly from Cypress Street south to North B Street and from Rome Avenue east to Oregon Avenue and will amount to almost 1,000 residential and commercial units. The entire project is called West End Tampa, although the biggest chunk technically lies in the North Hyde Park neighborhood, in what partially used to be an old industrial quarter.

"We wanted to take the industrial district out and put that neighborhood back together," said Morin president, Stacey Reisinger. "That was the entire plan in the beginning - to make this a sustainable community."

While Tampa's attention to development has largely focused on condo towers and restaurants in the downtown area, Channel District and Hyde Park, some believe the West End project will loom large in a forgotten part of the city that once was Tampa's core.

Jason Busto, of the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce's marketing committee, said the project is exactly the sort of development that will renew the area.

West Tampa and North Hyde Park form the city's "urban skeleton," Busto said. With its grid street design, the area west of the Hillsborough River was meant to be part of the city's structural foundation, Busto said.

Bob Garcia of West Tampa's Chamber of Commerce said the development will help increase the tax base.

The West End project, coupled with other renewal plans, such as the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory redevelopment, are the beginnings of a renaissance for the historic area, Garcia said.

City Council approved a proposal to turn the armory on Howard Avenue into a hotel, spa, farmers market and community center. The armory is a few blocks away from the West End development.

The city also supports West End, said Jeanette LaRussa Fenton, community redevelopment manager for West Tampa and Drew Park. She said she looks forward to the results of the development in what she called an "under-performing" industrial quarter.

Curt Ostrodka, a mixed-use urban planner in Orlando, said there are benefits to mixed-use development in cities, as opposed to suburban areas.

"It reduces the cost, waste and energy associated with extending roads, utilities and other infrastructure to a new site outside of the urban core," he said.

Morin is also making several improvements to the area, such as underground storage tanks to reduce the chance of flooding, repaving streets and constructing a bus shelter at Rome and Cypress.

For the past few months, Morin has used a billboard at Kennedy Boulevard and Rome to create interest in the project. In January, a teaser ad said simply, "The End is Near," a way of telling drivers that they were leaving West Tampa and suggesting they should turn around. Now, the billboard tells drivers of the project's sales center at 301 N Rome Ave.

The developers are optimistic about the market for its condos, despite slumps in the housing market and talk in recent weeks of a possible recession. The St. Petersburg Times recently reported that developers for an upscale condominium project, Towers of Channelside, filed for bankruptcy protection, prompting new questions about the viability of recent condo projects in and near downtown Tampa.

"It depends on how you interpret the news," said Lassiter Mason III, West End Tampa's sales manager. "I just read that new housing starts are lower, that's not bad news, especially for something like this," he said.

By the numbers

West End Tampa

9-block development stretching from Cypress Street south to North B Street and from Rome Avenue east to Oregon Avenue

550 apartments, tentatively beginning at $990 a month

79 townhomes, starting at $380,000, the first being ready in July

340 condos, groundbreaking for first mid-rise later this year

25,000 square feet for retailers, restaurants, offices

[Last modified February 21, 2008, 19:53:25]

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