The mayor wants more people living downtown. The developer wants prime real estate for a residential project. The Straz Center wants more parking and office space.
All three might get what they want after Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the developer behind downtown's Skypoint and Element towers agreed today to terms on the sale of downtown riverfront property.
The 36-story high-rise would be built on the wedge of city property adjacent to the Straz Center and the John F. Germany Library. The tower plans call for 10,000 square feet of retail, five floors of parking and 30 residential floors with a total of 350 units.
Under the proposed deal, the developer will pay $4 million for the property between Cass and Tyler streets. The Tampa City Council will vote Thursday on whether to approve the sale of the land; the council eventually also would have to approve any proposed development.
"This is a huge win for Tampa, a large win for downtown and the development of the waterfront," Buckhorn said.
If approved, the city would realign both Cass and Tyler streets to make them more pedestrian friendly, Buckhorn said. Both streets would be turned to two-way streets. Tyler Street would continue to the proposed tower and the Straz Center, where it would veer left to Cass Street.
The road redesign would give pedestrians easy access to the Straz Center, Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and river walk, Buckhorn said.
The mayor said demand is heavy in Tampa for high-rise urban apartments that will attract mainly young professionals but could also be of interest to empty nesters.
Having people live downtown is the key to revitalizing the city's urban core, Buckhorn said. As residents move in, he envisions more development of office space and retail, including restaurants, bars and a major grocery store.
"This will be a huge shot in the arm for downtown," Buckhorn said. "You're going to see more and more of these projects."
Developer Intown Group has partnered with Framework Group for the project. The project will cost $85 million, including the $4 million to buy the land. If approved by the city council, the tower could be completed at the end of 2014.
The units will be for rent instead of sale, and the prices haven't been determined, said Nancy Seijas-Kipnis, a spokeswoman for the Intown-Framework Group.
"There is a high demand for that urban type of living in an arts and cultural district," Seijas-Kipnis said. "It's definitely a desirable lifestyle."
City councilman Harry Cohen, who sits on the Straz Center board as a city council representative, said the project would bring with it plenty of benefits for the performing arts center.
Along with increased parking, the development would create a larger entrance area for the Straz, Cohen said. The larger entrance will give commuters ample room to drive their cars to the valet or drop people off, Cohen said.
The Straz board of directors voted this afternoon in support of the project, Cohen said.
"The city council's first question will be, "What does the Straz Center think of this proposal?" Cohen said. "The board was making a statement of what it thinks of the proposal."
The project will be exciting because it will connect the Straz to the Tampa Museum of Art, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Riverwalk, said Judy Lisi, president and chief executive officer of the Straz Center.
"It will be nice to have residents there 24 hours," Lisi said. "People attract people."
City councilman Frank Reddick, whose district includes downtown Tampa, said he was briefed on the project last week and likes what he's heard.
"I'm all for generating tax revenue for the city and I think it will be beneficial for the Straz Center," Reddick said. "Looking at the plan it has great potential to improving that area."