Proposed tower would be tallest in Pinellas County
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11 / 21 / 14
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It proposes a 41-story condominium tower with 253 units facing Tampa Bay, and a 13-story, 174-room hotel facing downtown, along with parking and street-level retail.

ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - The Kolter Group has now submitted to the City of St. Petersburg site plans for development of the so-called "Trop Block" near the downtown waterfront.

It proposes a 41-story condominium tower with 253 units facing Tampa Bay, and a 13-story, 174-room hotel facing downtown, along with parking and street-level retail.

"For the downtown core, it's kind of what we expect," Planning and Economic Development Director David Goodwin told FOX 13 News. "So our zoning, our land development regulations are geared for just this kind of project."

Goodwin said the $120 million project qualifies for fast-track permitting, assuming no challenge from nearby property owners and assuming appropriate findings from the Federal Aviation Administration.

If operations at downtown's Albert Whitted Airport are impacted, city approvals get more complicated.

The proposed tower would be the tallest in Pinellas County, easily topping One Progress Plaza by at least 40 feet.

"You have to have a ‘No Hazard Determination' before you can proceed," Airport Advisory Committee Chairman Jack Tunstill explained.

Referring to other recent -- and shorter -- tower projects, Tunstill said "The guys that built the Signature and the guys that built 300 Beach Drive, 400 Beach Drive all understood...what the rules are."

Or, according to Tunstill, learned about FAA's role the hard way. He claims 400 Beach Drive was originally designed for a height similar to the Trop block project.

The airport constituency told that developer "You're going to have to build your building lower, because if we let one person in, the next guy that comes in the room says well you just did it for them."

He said the Airport Advisory Committee is prepared to take the same position again. However, he described a recent meeting with the developer arranged by former mayor Rick Baker as cordial, and said the aviation community will abide by the FAA's decision.

Brian Van Slyke, Kolter Group's project manager, told FOX 13 News the developer is aware of the height challenges and is already working with the FAA to secure the necessary findings. Van Slyke said he is confident the tower can be built as proposed, in part because it is very close to other buildings that are nearly as tall.

Van Slyke said a double-wide mobile home recently moved onto the lot will become the sales center within a few weeks. No building plans have been submitted to the city and no construction date has been set.

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