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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014

Otto: Condomania is sadly sweeping Bayshore, downtown

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Published:   |   Updated: July 1, 2013 at 09:25 AM

I can't remember how many years ago this was, maybe 15 or 20.

But there was a group of us - journalists and politicians - out in the middle of Hillsborough Bay for some event.

I found myself leaning on a boat railing next to then-Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena. Saul-Sena was an advocate of a better-looking city.

She had a led a charge to clean up the Kennedy Boulevard strip coming into downtown.

I said something, complaining about the string of condo towers lining the Bayshore in the distance. "The good news,'' she said, was that there would be no more towers on the Bayshore. Local government now recognized Bayshore as the treasure that it is and would protect what remained.

That was at least three towers ago and the next one is apparently ready to go up.

This one has been a long time in the works. Originally the Citivest people wanted something larger. By 2006 it was going to be an 18-story building. Now the size has been trimmed to 15 stories.

One of the things that makes the proposed tower significant is its location on what is known as "Patriots Corner'' at Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards.

The "Patriots'' are those loyal souls who show up every Friday as they have since 9/11 and stand out in the Bayshore median waving American flags.

The small corner also has become the parking lot for the assorted joggers, skaters and anybody else using the Bayshore linear park for years.

I suppose there has never really been any doubt that somehow, someday, the developers would win. This tiny square was way too valuable to be used for recreation or anything else except making money.

Now the inevitable is about to happen, and last week giant renderings of the proposed condo went up on Bayshore and Bay to Bay.

You have to see them. It's not that the building, a tower of glass set against a huge wall, isn't attractive.

It's perfect, or at least it might be perfect if it was downtown with the other business towers it emulates.

Maybe it's not as bad as I think. Sometimes they exaggerate these things for advertising value. But this time I don't think so. I think if this thing is built (more likely when it is built) it is going to redefine the Bayshore as just another strip where we messed up, not unlike over the years as we allowed developers to line the Pinellas County beaches with cold dark buildings.

Don't you sometimes wonder what these people are thinking? Aren't most of them supposed to have some sense of space and what goes in with its surroundings?

This is not the worst offender on the drawing board. The other is that massive condo about to go up on a strip of land between the river and the John Germany Library. It gives new meaning to "Big Ugly.''

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