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Luxury housing complex finds room to adjust

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The $35-million luxury apartment complex planned for downtown just west of the Bayfront Center now has a name: Madison at St. Petersburg.

The nearly 300-unit, two-building project was first approved by the Environmental Development Commission last summer. It is on two city blocks between Fourth Avenue S and Delmar Terrace and First and Third streets. The properties are south of the Bayfront Hilton and north of the Carlton Towers.

To deal with the narrow blocks and high land costs downtown, Zom Development Inc. planners decided to put a parking deck below the complex. That way, Zom could pack in 77 units an acre, making the project feasible.

But in drawing up the final version, planners discovered a problem. The land was uneven, and so some of the stoops needed more steps than others. To allow enough room for the taller sets of stairs, Zom needed more land than it had.

So on Wednesday, the EDC reluctantly gave up 6 feet of right of way along Fourth Avenue S. A related request for vacation of air rights for a 5-foot-wide area outside the entire project boundary was also approved.

The EDC said it would have preferred granting an easement, but present codes would allow the city to take back the easement with only 30 days' notice. This provision would make it virtually impossible for the developers to secure financing. Similarly, the air rights vacation allows the developer to secure clear title to the property. The air rights were needed to allow roof eves, balconies and building offsets.

The property originally was approved in 1998 for development of the Betty Jones Spa and retail complex -- a project that was abandoned. Zom has since decided to develop the site.

The complex is designed for an urban environment, with buildings extending to sidewalks and rising above structured interior parking. The buildings are configured in an "O" shape overlooking a central courtyard, which features a pool and deck.

The spaces will range from 600-square-foot one-bedroom efficiencies to luxury townhomes. Monthly rents will range from $700 to $2,000.

Each month the EDC meets to consider proposed development projects that require variances or site plan approval, or requests for alley or right of way easements.

Among other items considered Wednesday:

CARILLON OFFICE BUILDING: A site plan for a five-story, 250,000-square-foot office building in the Carillon Business Park south of Roosevelt Boulevard was approved by the EDC. The office building will house the second phase of AEGON, one of the world's largest listed insurance groups. The first phase was completed in 1998.

SIGNATURE BRANCH BANK: The bank plans to build a 8,000-square-foot branch bank with drive-through between 34th and 35th avenues N on the west side of Fourth Street N. Developers will demolish three existing buildings. The site plan was approved.

CHILDREN'S HOME: The Children's Home Society of Florida, currently a residential home for runaway girls unable to reunite with their families, will be renovated and converted to a family visitation center. A site plan for the new center was approved by the EDC.

FOURTH STREET SHRIMP STORE PARKING LOT: Two lots north of the Fourth Street Shrimp Store at 1020 and 1030 Fourth St. N will be converted into a new parking lot for the busy restaurant, as a result of a site plan approved by the EDC.

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