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Housing, taxes and jobs dominate discussion in St. Petersburg City Council

Margie Manning

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A rendering of the southeast view of the planned 25-unit apartment building at 357 5th St. S. (Courtesy: Place Architecture)

The St. Petersburg City Council has given the go-ahead to a “tiny apartments” development downtown.

The project, at 357 5th St. S., is one of the first projects to take advantage of zoning changes the City Council agreed to last year that allow newly built apartments downtown that are 750 square feet or less to be exempt from providing parking for tenants, said Tim Clemmons, a principal at Place, the architectural firm that designed the project.

Those zoning changes were designed to encourage more affordable places to live, said Council member Gina Driscoll. The 5th Street South development does not have a workforce housing component, but Clemmons said the rents would be several hundred dollars a month lower than comparable apartments downtown and close to workforce housing rental rates.

The project owner is 357 5th Street South LLC, an entity headed by Bradley Campbell, president of Campbell Custom Development in Tampa. The limited liability company bought the land for $1 million in October 2019 and plans about $2.5 million in construction costs.

The five-story building will have 665 square feet of ground floor retail space and 25 apartment units, all smaller than 750 square feet. It won’t have any parking for cars, but will have 25 bicycle spaces.

“We think this type of project will be very attractive to those people who want to take advantage of our beautiful pedestrian-friendly downtown, but either can’t drive or prefer not to own a car,” Clemmons said. “These people historically have had to pay for parking spaces they weren’t using.”

Adding parking to a project can increase the cost of construction by as much as $100,000 per apartment, he said.

In lieu of providing workforce housing, the developer will contribute $10,000 to the city’s Housing Capital Improvements Projects trust fund, a report to the City Council said.

“By eliminating the parking requirement, one of our goals was to try to create more housing that was affordable or workforce level,” Driscoll said. “I wish this could be that perfect example of how that happened, but instead for $10,000 they don’t have to do a single unit of workforce housing.”

“I haven’t done the analysis but if you take off the $300 to $350 per month, that probably puts it close to the 120 percent of median income threshold that we define as workforce housing,” Clemmons said. 

City Council member Robert Blackmon said he worried about losing older housing stock that currently serves as affordable workforce housing.

Despite their concerns, both Blackmon and Driscoll voted with the rest of the Council to allow the project to move forward.

It’s the second tiny apartments project to win City Council approval. In October, the Council okayed construction of two apartment buildings in the 1700 blocks of 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg. The 2nd Avenue North building also will have units smaller than 750 square feet.

 The 5th Street South project was among several initiatives approved by the City Council on Thursday. Other key votes include:

• Approval for using $286,000 in tax increment financing for an 11-unit townhome development by St Petersburg developer Namaste Homes. The $2.5 million development at 16th Avenue South and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street South was endorsed in October by the Citizens Advisory Committee for the South St. Petersburg CRA.

• Approval of an additional homestead tax exemption for low-income senior citizens who have lived in their homes for 25 years or longer and whose homes are valued at less than $250,000. An estimated 1,051 residents potentially could qualify, with an estimated $123,742 tax impact on the city in fiscal year 2022.

• Approval of a $2.8 million, three-year contract with St. Petersburg College to provide education and job training for residents of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area, with a focus on higher-paying jobs in the industries that are part of the city’s Grow Smarter economic development strategy — marine and life sciences, financial services, data analytics, specialized manufacturing and creative arts and design. St. Petersburg College will manage St. Pete Works!, which is a collaborative project of community-based organizations that work together with employers and local agencies to support workforce opportunities in the CRA.

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