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Dramatically altered Mirror Lake project receives approval

Mark Parker



Local development firm Skyward Living's significantly scaled down Lake House development plans received unanimous approval. All images: Screengrabs, city documents.

A St. Petersburg-based developer’s third proposal to build upscale condominiums on Mirror Lake proved the charm as the Lake House project is now moving forward.

Hudson Harr, owner of Skyward Living, received unanimous approval Wednesday from the city’s Development Review Commission to construct an 11-story building at 200 Mirror Lake Dr. N. Officials also lauded his willingness to compromise and work collaboratively with neighborhood stakeholders.

Harr reduced the project’s scope by about 40% since the last hearing in January 2023. The $36 million development will now feature 45 residences and 72 parking spaces.

“One thing I want to say to the audience here … your tone and tenor of this discussion is commendable,” said Commissioner Michael Kiernan. “Also, we’d be remiss if we don’t recognize that this developer has met with everyone. Their community outreach seems to be sincere, and they have adjusted this thing significantly to appease people.”

The Lake House will now feature 45 residences, down from the initially planned 77.

In November 2022, the Commission dismissed Skyward Living’s plans to build an 18-story tower with 77 condominiums and a five-floor, 131-space parking podium. They deferred an official vote until January 2023.

Harr returned before the Commission and proposed reducing the brick podium to four floors and 99 parking spaces. However, the number of residences increased to 82.

A contentious debate ensued, with surrounding residents decrying the building’s height and impact on neighborhood character. The Commission agreed and unanimously rejected the proposal.

The latest iteration of the Lake House development will now feature a three-floor parking podium. Skyward Living reduced the total building height from 200 to 125 feet.

Harr said he realized that developers could “find viability in a smaller domain.” He said 11-story condo buildings are rare due to perceived insurance and financing rate challenges.

“We found that we could make that possible,” he added.

A height comparison of the initial and currently proposed developments.

Two aspects of the previous plan remain unchanged. The tower’s setback is 16 feet, and property constraints prevent Skyward Living from moving it further away from Mirror Lake Drive.

In addition, the development will still feature 840 square feet of commercial space. Harr envisions offering a coffee shop, and commissioners agreed it would provide a neighborhood amenity.

However, concerns remained. Multiple residents said the building would still negatively impact neighborhood character and the waterfront environment. Some questioned the need to provide 72 parking spaces for 45 units.

In addition, Skyward Living will demolish five one- and two-story buildings on the property. Three contribute to the National Register Downtown St. Petersburg Historic District.

While that does not protect structures from demolition, residents in the city’s oldest neighborhood are applying for a more stringent local designation. While Manny Leto, executive director of Preserve the ‘Burg, did not offer project approval, he did credit the Commission for facilitating “a conclusion that serves both the community and owners’ rights.”

“As a result, we have today, a better product,” Leto added. “It shows that if developers want to build here, we can set high standards.”

Bill Herrmann, co-chairperson of Preserve the ‘Burg’s advocacy board, said the organization opposed the project. He said the development would “destroy four historic resources with marginal offset.”

Mirror Lake is St. Petersburg’s oldest neighborhood. Photo by Mark Parker.

Harr previously told the Commission he was exploring relocating one of the existing structures. Hermann said the hearing “would set the benchmark for that entire lakefront.”

However, Herrmann added that he would “be remiss not to acknowledge the dramatic redesign of this project. Candidly, it was easy for me last year to file as a registered opponent and fill this room with people. I could not do so for this scaled-back version.”

Herrmann said headlight pollution from the parking podium remained an issue. Harr pledged to mitigate those impacts, including during the construction phase.

Herrmann also expressed the need for real-time seismic monitoring. Harr again acquiesced.

Lakehouse’s southeast corner will feature a sculpture by local artist Ya La’Ford. Harr’s application states that the development will include “sidewalk-level public art” valued at $100,000.

Skyward Living will receive a density bonus by contributing $288,000 to the city’s Housing Capital Improvements Trust Fund. The developer must also purchase 10,691 square feet in transfer of development rights.

“Am I great with it?” asked Commissioner Chuck Flynt. “No. Can we live with it and not destroy Mirror Lake? Yeah.”





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