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City Council approves apartments in downtown St. Petersburg

Margie Manning

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A rendering of the apartments planned for the 1700 block of 1st Avenue North

A Tampa company has won approval to build two apartment buildings in the 1700 blocks of 1st Avenue North and 2nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg.

The City Council voted to approve the projects Thursday, after a debate that touched on the changing nature of  housing and downtown living.

The property owner, Zhukovskyi USA in Tampa, plans to build a six-story, 50-unit apartment building at 1725 and 1735 1st Ave. N., demolishing the existing office and retail buildings currently at the sites. The new building will have a contemporary style, with 24 parking spaces, indoor bike storage, a fitness center and a two-story glass lobby. All the apartments will be one-bedroom, according to the application filed with the city. The project is valued at $3.5 million.

Don Mastry, a Trenam attorney representing the developer, said the estimated rent for the apartments is $1,350 a month, which he said is “substantially less” than the rent for other nearby apartments that are smaller.

Zhukovskyi also plans a $2.3 million project at 1750 2nd Ave. N. That will be a five-story, 33-unit apartment building.

Each of the studio units will be less than 750 square feet, so no parking spaces are required, under a measure approved by the City Council last year that eliminates parking requirements for small apartments in an effort to make them more affordable. The project will have bicycle parking.

The 2nd Avenue project drew objections from City Council members Gina Driscoll and Robert Blackmon. Driscoll said the apartments would not fit with the character of the existing neighborhood.

“While I applaud the property owners’ desire to create more housing opportunities for more people by offering small spaces, which are becoming more and more popular, the location where this would be built is not good for the neighborhood,” Driscoll said.

The lack of parking would create a “nightmare” on the street, said Blackmon.

A rendering of the apartments planned for the 1700 block of 2nd Avenue North

Council member Darden Rice spoke in favor of the project, saying it reflects a lot of the principles the Council has been discussing over the past two years.

“I think we need to stick to our commitment,” Rice said. “We’ve talked a lot about reducing the requirements for parking. We understand how that’s important. There’s a lot of demand for people who don’t have cars who are looking for places to live. It’s very proximate to a walkable area and it also will be close to the SunRunner BRT route. This is exactly what we’ve been talking about, being creative and flexible about allowing multifamily unit projects to go in near a transit corridor.”

Rice said Interstate 275 already has disrupted the neighborhood, and Council member Brandi Gabbard agreed.

“This is an area that’s changing dramatically. With the interstate running through there, single family homes are not as viable as they were in areas like that. Apartments are the future of these type of communities,” Gabbard said. “We need to give projects like this a chance and start to use the tools we put in the toolbox to enhance housing options.”

The Council voted 6 to 2 to approve the 2nd Avenue North project, with Driscoll and Blackmon casting the two no votes. The 1st Avenue North project was approved unanimously.

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