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DRC approves car-free apartment project amid concerns

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of the apartments at 1663 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. All images: Bold Line Design and Kimley Horn.

When The Metro apartment complex traded hands earlier this year, it was converted into The Mint House, an apartment-style hotel with short-term rentals. Several St. Petersburg Development Review Commissioners fear the same transaction and transformation may happen with a newly proposed car-free apartment building. 

During a Wednesday DRC meeting, commissioners tussled with the request before them – approval of a site plan to construct an eight-story building with 97 dwelling units and floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses. Unlike the many projects the commission reviews, this micro-unit complex would not offer on-site parking. 

The building would consist of furnished micro-units that are less than 750 square feet. The city code doesn’t require on-site parking for the units, said attorney Katie Cole.

A rendering of a proposed apartment building.

Cole’s firm Hill Ward Henderson represents the applicants Craig Bazarsky of BendinRoad Development LLC and Christopher Bicho of Landings Real Estates Group, the joint venture partners behind the $25 million project. 

“We are attracting people who don’t have a lot of stuff and likely don’t have a car. We will have 101 bike storage units. You can walk to retail, restaurants, the grocery store, and we have public transportation with the SunRunner,,” Bazarsky said to the commissioners, explaining the project will encourage more residents to use micro-mobility alternatives and become less reliant on single-occupant vehicles. 

DRC member Charles Flynt questioned the development team on the terms of the residential leases and how this project deviates from The Mint House. 

“The Mint House is not relevant to this,” Cole assured, stating commissioners shouldn’t draw parallels between the two projects. 

DRC member Michael Kiernan later remarked that while the city “got hoodwinked” on approving the original plan for The Metro, it would be unjust to “paint it [this project] with the same brush.” 

Bazarsky echoed Cole’s previous comment. He reiterated how the St. Pete project wouldn’t be the team’s first attempt at building a non-car-centric complex. The developers are building a seven-story complex in Tampa’s Water Street District with 104 units ranging between 400 to 450 square feet. The building will have seven parking spaces. 

Renderings showing the different perspectives of the building, including the courtyard and a lounge space. 

In St. Pete, the team would have a partnership with Circuit, a fully electric ride-share service that would exclusively provide rides for residents to destinations within a two-mile radius. 

Bazarsky also noted that the micro-units would bring more affordable housing options to the city as rental rates due to the small square footage. 

The units would be furnished and equipped with an automated furniture system from company Ori. The systems allow residents to lift beds to the ceiling, creating an expandable living space. 

 

Although the units were pitched as a solution to help bring more affordable housing to St. Pete, it doesn’t meet the definition of affordable housing and the team is not seeking to qualify the project as affordable housing. 

“We have a serious workforce housing issue, and this will do nothing for that,” DRC member Todd Reed commented, telling fellow commissioners that he looked at the project holistically and has “real reservations about it.” 

City staff said if the use of the complex were to change, the group would have to return to the DRC for a public hearing and approval. 

The DRC ultimately approved the site plan for the proposed apartment project. Commissioners Reed and Flynt cast the opposing votes. 

The development team is working with Jacksonville-based architect firm Bold Line Design and engineering consultant group Kimley-Horn on the project. 

The application did not indicate a timeline for the development. 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Robert Roth

    July 14, 2023at11:39 am

    “Let’s build an apartment complex across from a MLB stadium that has no parking”. FL logic

  2. Avatar

    Diana Sander

    July 13, 2023at7:00 pm

    In New York city these apartment hotels are very popular. Many corporations own or rent long term apartments to house executives of their own or visiting executives for scouting and meetings. As St Petersburg grows in business and tourism world we should embrace ways to encourage the influx of businesses making St Pete their base. I don’t know the renting regulations for this project but it should be geared towards developing industries and corporate occupancy.

  3. Avatar

    Bill Schaill

    July 13, 2023at4:17 pm

    The logic is totally backwards. Not providing parking will not prevent the tenants from bringing their cars. It smells like a typical 21st century American con job.

  4. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    July 13, 2023at4:03 pm

    What an absurdity ! To paraphrase Orwell’s 1984, “You will have nothing and be happy.”
    On my street in OSE, where 7 properties are owned by out of town speculators, the street is filled with cars of renters who will never be able to afford to own a property of their own ! Fix the City Code!

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