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‘Hybrid’ 25-story tower project passes appeal process

Mark Parker

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The St. Petersburg City Council denied an appeal regarding a proposed 25-story tower that will allow condominium owners to offer their units as short-term rentals. Screengrab, city documents.

The St. Petersburg City Council denied a public appeal to stop plans moving forward for a 25-story luxury tower that allows condominium owners to offer units as short-term rentals.

The council voted 6-2 in favor of the $55 million project with two conditions. The developer, Clearwater-based Valor Capital, cannot play amplified music from the building’s rooftop bar, and short-term rentals will require a minimum 30-day stay.

Council members reached the necessary super-majority vote Thursday after over two hours of debate. A neighboring condominium association appealed the previously approved project, and dozens of residents spoke against its potential impacts on a relatively tranquil area.

“You don’t get to cherry-pick when it gets to be a hotel and when it gets to be a condo,” said Councilmember Gina Driscoll. “And find your own customized version of the rules for each one to match what you want to do.”

Three buildings, including two erected in 1920, will now make way for St. Petersburg’s first “condotel.” The half-acre property at 332, 340 and 344 4th Street South – near the intersection of 4th Avenue – will feature a 152-unit condominium tower with 4,893 square feet of commercial space and a 130-space parking garage.

A street level view of the proposed $55 million project. Screengrab, city documents.

Despite community objections, the council and Development Review Commission (DRC) found the project adhered to downtown zoning regulations in January. Karen Carmichael said she filed the appeal on behalf of the neighboring Sage Condominium’s board and residents of several significantly smaller buildings surrounding the site.

Carmichael’s appeal focused on the project’s proposed “sky lounge” and hybrid use as a hotel. However, she and others also decried the permitted building height and neighborhood incompatibility.

City staff and attorney Don Mastry, representing Valor Capital, noted that officials allowed hotel use at the site in 1983. They also highlighted similar-sized developments closer to the downtown core.

“Somehow, we managed to omit the buildings that are directly adjacent to this site,” Driscoll said. “I think it is absolutely shameful that those were not included in here … All I ask for is true transparency on this stuff. But that makes it look like somebody is on a certain side from the beginning.

“As Mr. Mastry said, this area is four blocks from the heart of downtown. It’s not in the core.”

The intersection of 4th Street and 4th Avenue South. GoogleMaps.

The property currently consists of a two and three-story apartment building built in 1920 and a four-unit condominium complex opened in 2003. The century-old structures lack official historic designations.

Carmichael said those provide naturally occurring affordable housing and that multiple surrounding developments are income-restricted and reserved for elderly residents. Several public speakers said they expected redevelopment at the site, but not a 25-story tower with transient uses and a rooftop bar.

“It feels to me like we’re giving approval building for a condo building to just have an exemption to the ordinance on short-term rentals,” said Councilmember Richie Floyd.

Multiple residents and council members also noted that Valor Capital has not said if the rooftop bar will open to the public. However, the firm’s plans align with current zoning regulations and the property use precedent set in 1983.

The hotel designation requires an internal lobby and onsite staff to address any issues. Valor Capital must also obtain state licensing and contribute $550,000 to Housing and Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

“My biggest concern here, honestly, is the same concern that all cities have with short-term rentals,” said Councilmember Lisset Hanewicz. “It’s destroying cities.”

She favored Driscoll’s motion to uphold the appeal and send the project back to the DRC for a second review. That failed, and Valor Capital will now move on to the permitting process.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sarah Higdon

    March 5, 2024at1:26 pm

    A very bad idea. Anyone looking at that one block area can see that it is currently an oasis of low 3-4 storey condos and a drugstore & adjacent to the Publix. It has been holding it’s own as a low height relief to the taller apartment/ condo high rises and a nice visual relief. This could have been done with some sense…clearly, this will destroy the small little area. Such a shameful bad idea, greed is the motivator here.

  2. Avatar

    David B.

    March 4, 2024at4:23 pm

    I don’t understand why anyone who wanted to be a full-time St. Pete resident – or even a part-time resident – would want to buy a condo in this building, when it would likely be full of lots of short-term renters who didn’t really care about the building. I know I sure wouldn’t. Sounds like a bad idea.

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