TAMPA - The Board of Trustees for the Straz Center has withdrawn its opposition to a 400-foot tall apartment tower planned to be built next door to the performing arts center.
In a blind survey, board members voted 32-16 in support of the project, called the Residences at the Riverwalk. Fourteen members did not vote. The survey was held on Monday and its results released Thursday.
"We were able to present all the pros and cons of the project to the board," said Straz Board Chairman Martin Silbiger. "And after thorough discussion and reflection on all aspects of this proposal, a very clear majority of our board is in favor of the project."
Mayor Bob Buckhorn has pushed for the tower as part of his vision for a vibrant Riverwalk and downtown. On Thursday, he said that plan is nearing reality with the Straz board's approval of the tower.
"The Residences at the Riverwalk presented an opportunity for the Straz to have the challenging street grid fixed" at Tyler and Cass streets, Buckhorn said in a news release.
Construction of the tower will turn Cass into a two-way street between the river and Orange Street. Tyler Street will be straightened and end at a new parking area outside the Straz Center.
"The project also creates an important connection between the Straz Center and north downtown with Curtis Hixon and the Tampa Museum of Art," Buckhorn said, and the tax revenue generated by the apartment building will "allow us to continue to invest in our downtown, shaping an urban core we can all enjoy. I look forward to the project receiving approval from Tampa City Council and the start of construction next spring."
The 36-story tower was proposed by a development group called Intown/Framework Group, which plans to build on the Hillsborough River just south of the Straz Center in downtown Tampa. The tower will feature 360 apartment units, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 400-car parking garage.
Judy Lisi, Straz Center president, along with advocates for the John F. Germany Public Library, had expressed concerns about the project's vast scope and all the roadwork needed around it.
On Thursday, Lisi said she and the board are enthusiastic that the project will improve the streets around the Straz Center and contribute to the vision of a bustling downtown.
"We are thankful that all the involved parties were interested in considering the position of our board, and we are looking forward to working with the city and the Intown/Framework Group on what is sure to be a successful endeavor," Lisi said in a statement.