June 17--A proposed riverfront tower next to the Straz Center for Performing Arts isn't the only apartment project that developers are hoping comes out of the ground there.
New Jersey-based Denholtz Associates owns the surface parking lots directly east of the Straz and is in the final stages of a deal to sell about 5.3 acres to make way for several hundred apartments, with a large parking deck later taking up the other portion of the available land.
The deal isn't closed yet, and people involved say that construction likely won't start for more than a year, even in the most rapid of schedules.
"As for the apartments, there's still strong demand," said Ryan Sampson, a broker with Eshenbaugh Land Company that's handling the proposed deal. "The Element tower leased up quickly as apartments, and the projects in Channelside show there's strong demand for apartments. Our parcel -- there's no other five-acre available site downtown like it."
The parking deck, Sampson said, "would probably be just a two-story parking deck and not block anyone's views."
Denholtz owns two parcels next to the Straz through an entity called Ashley Avenue Associates II and III, with one 2.2-acre part directly to the east of the Straz, and another 5.3-acre part directly to the north, abutting the I-275 freeway. (Delholtz also owns an adjacent office building called The Times building.) Denholtz recently hired Eshenbaugh to market the surface lots. At least half a dozen bids came in from potential buyers, Sampson said, and bidding exceeded the $8.8 million asking price. Now Sampson is working with a leading bidder that he declined to identify, with a planned two-step deal in the works.
The first step involves Denholtz selling the northern parcel to a developer who would build about 330 to 350 units in a series of four or five-story buildings. Proceeds from that sale would then help build a two-story parking deck on the southern parcel. That parking project would not preclude anyone going to shows at the Straz center from parking there, Sampson said. More likely, he said patrons would simply pay to park in the new garage in the same way they pay to park in the surface lot now. The parking deck would end up serving the apartments to the north, the office building to the East and the Straz to the west.
The Denholtz deal's low-rise apartments would contrast with the planned apartment tower on the riverfront that could top 36 stories. That tower is backed by a pair of developers, Intown Group and Framework Group. The City of Tampa is helping usher in that tower by re-orienting several streets adjacent to the Straz to straighten out the traffic flow and open a new plaza as part of the main entrance to the Straz. The board of the Straz center last July withdrew opposition to the tower project, and lawsuits against the project brought by other parties have been dismissed.
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