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Fresh start sought on Temple Terrace downtown redevelopment

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Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:18 AM
TEMPLE TERRACE -

The unfinished portion of Temple Terrace's $150 million downtown redevelopment district project is as quiet as a graveyard.

Not a spade of dirt has been turned at the 29-acre site at Bullard Parkway and North 56th Street in nearly a year.

Several factors have brought city leaders and Vlass Temple Terrace representatives to a stalemate since March, including disagreements about whether to build apartments or condominiums.

Both sides now are advocating a new attitude.

With the start of a new year and new faces on the Temple Terrace City Council, city officials and Vlass representatives are promising to be more amicable.

They also pledged to work together and improve communications in an effort to get the project back on track.

"We are certainly engaged and moving forward on a positive note," said Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura, who was elected in November.

His comments were well-received by Vlass representatives, Mark Sneed, president of Marketplace Advisors, and David Smith, a Tampa attorney representing the developer.

"We are encouraged we are going to try a new beginning," Smith said at the Temple Terrace City Council last week. "We share your commitment to get this project up and running and turn the corner.

"We have a good start."

Sneed also had good news.

The Vlass team has commitments from several tenants, including a medical-related company, to open shop in the new town center when it's completed, he said. He declined to name them.

Sneed said the Vlass team had signed a lease agreement with the Burger King restaurant to move from the corner of Bullard Parkway and 56th Street to the northeast corner of 56th Street and Chicago Avenue.

He sees it as a step toward focusing the project on the proposed arts center targeted to be built at Bullard and 56th Street.

The town center project began with tremendous fanfare nearly three years ago.

Residents and city leaders envisioned a downtown sprinkled with shops, restaurants, private residences, offices, and civic and cultural buildings.

City leaders formed a partnership with Vlass Temple Terrace in 2010 after Michael Vlass of Atlanta and his partners took the lead to fulfill the city's 10-year dream to create a pedestrian-friendly, "new urbanism"-style town center.

The company broke ground on July 2, 2010. Since then, Temple Terrace leaders and residents have insisted the developer live up to its promise for private homes in the downtown area.

The Vlass team has proposed building a luxury apartment complex on the site. They consider the apartment complex an essential part of the downtown redevelopment plan, because no condominium market currently exists.

City staffers and members of the Vlass team have struggled to agree on zoning and land-development matters, and clash on topics as specific as first-floor ceiling heights and parking.

Chillura and council members said they are open to compromise.

"I think the most important thing we can bring forward is we are all excited about moving the project forward," Chillura said. "The key is good communication.

"We understand plans need to be tweaked along the way, but it (compromise) is a two-way street."

So far, the Vlass group has completed the first phase of the downtown project.

Workers have opened a segment of the project's new main street from Chicago Avenue to north of the Sweetbay supermarket.

A new park, featuring a gazebo and a life-size sculpture of former Mayor Joe Affronti, on nearly an acre to the east of the road, also has been completed.

Sweetbay has undergone a $3.5 million makeover, and buildings on both sides have been renovated to make room for Sally's Beauty, Rainbow clothing store and Radio Shack, which moved from elsewhere on the property.

A new post office fronting Chicago Avenue also is open.


kknight@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7413

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