In November 2022, local school officials decided to address the workforce housing shortage by transforming a 99-year-old building overlooking St. Petersburg’s Mirror Lake into homes for teachers and staff.
After an extensive proposal and evaluation period, Pinellas County Schools (PCS) leadership named two development groups as finalists to redevelop the 39,000-square foot Tomlinson Adult Education Center and its 1.7 acre property – Sherman Associates and Tomlinson Community Partners.
PCS officials made their decision following closed-door presentations Monday and declined to comment on the ongoing process. While leading a tour of the facility in November, Associate Superintendent Clint Herbic said, “We have to find a way for our teachers to compete against people that come in with unlimited funds and are willing to pay anything to live where they want.”
“We’re really encouraging people to be creative and come to us with some ideas,” Herbic said.
Representatives from the two finalists could not be reached in time for publication. However, they will soon return to the county for an undated interview phase.
Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates has developed over 12,000 mixed-income units, primarily throughout the Midwest. Its application letter states the group recently entered the Florida market via a St. Pete Beach project.
They proposed constructing the Tomlinson Historic Lofts in the preserved building, which opened in 1924 as St. Petersburg Junior High School. The first floor would feature a café and patio, dog park, coworking offices and meeting space.
The second and third floors would provide 27 “spacious” and “historic lofts.” A statue commemorating Edwin H. Tomlinson, a prominent philanthropist and developer during the early 1900s, would welcome residents at the front entrance.
The group would also build the 17-story Tomlinson Tower featuring 208 apartments, a fitness center, a pool, a pet spa and a rooftop terrace overlooking Mirror Lake and the St. Petersburg skyline. The proposal states that all residents would have access to the tower’s amenities and 265 parking spaces.
The Tomlinson Lofts and Tower would feature a combined 235 workforce and market rate units, with 117 capped at 90% to 120% of the area median income and reserved for teachers, staff and their families.
“Our goal is to provide the district with a resource to attract and retain teachers and school district staff who will ultimately impact the county’s students and present a development that is financially viable,” read a letter signed by Christopher Sherman, president of Sherman Associates.
While based in Minneapolis, the company would utilize several local businesses on the project. Those include Tampa-based Design Style Architecture, St. Petersburg-based LEMA Construction and regionally-based All Trades Construction.
Sherman Associates would fund the nearly $95 million project with a $58 million construction loan, $5.5 million in private equity and about $21 million in county and city Penny for Pinellas Funding. The balance would come from federal and state sources.
Tomlinson Community Partners
Tomlinson Community Partners (TCP) is a joint venture between Wesley Chapel-based Goshen + Cornerstone and Dantes Partners, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The latter firm would spearhead the project and oversees the affordable housing aspect of the Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment.
TCP’s proposal includes 225 total units, with 30% – or 75 – designated for workforce housing. The group would incorporate 40 apartments with retail and amenities into the preserved three-story building.
TCP would also construct a three-level parking structure with 182 spaces and “a wrap of community facing” retail and amenity space along 8th Street and 3rd Avenue North. Plans call for an 11-story tower above the podium and another seven-story residential midrise facing 8th Avenue North.
The proposal states that “the architectural blending of existing and new is to be achieved through the thoughtful use of proportions, carefully selected materials and the intentional sight-lines of the Tomlinson Building … while also creating a new street-level façade that is expressive and inviting in its own unique way.”
The developers would allocate 45 units for those making 90% of the AMI, with monthly rents between $1,293 and $1,662, depending on size. Another 23 apartments are for those earning 120%, with monthly rents ranging from $1,725 to $2,217.
TCP pledged to highlight local, national and international art in public spaces, increase walkability and connectivity and protect the neighborhood’s character. The development would also feature several security measures, including guard stations, ground patrolling and 24-hour monitoring.
The group hopes to enter into a long-term ground lease with PCS and pay $90,000 annually, with a yearly interest increase of 3.5% over 50 years. The estimated total project cost is $62.2 million, with an anticipated completion date of July 2026.