Development firm Altis Cardinal needed the Development Review Commission’s approval Oct. 3 to ensure a Sprouts Farmers Market would anchor its 34.3-acre redevelopment in St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District.
After four hours of sometimes intense debate and myriad site plan conditions, commissioners allowed the expansive Skyway Village project to move forward. The multi-phased mixed-use development will feature 2,084 housing units, 80,920 square feet of commercial space, 22,500 square feet of office space, 119,160 square feet of accessory self-storage use and 4,000 parking spaces.
Skyway Village will reimagine the former Ceridian business campus at the southwest corner of 34th Street and 30th Avenue South. Several residents and commissioners expressed concern about the redevelopment’s traffic impacts and neighborhood compatibility.
Donald Mastry, Altis Cardinal’s attorney, said the project aligns with the city’s comprehensive plan, retail center (RC-1) zoning requirements and the Skyway Marina District Master Plan.
“And it (the development) is not seeking any financial assistance from the city,” Mastry added. “I think it would be horrible policy for this board or this city to deny projects that are permitted by right without any variances being requested. That’s a bad message to send.”
In addition to the Sprouts grocery store, Skyway Village will offer 36,230 square feet of indoor commercial space. Mastry said that could potentially accommodate 16 restaurants.
He explained that Altis would simultaneously construct the retail space facing 34th Street (U.S. Hwy 19) with the corresponding apartment buildings. Six five-story mid-rises, each with structured parking, will include the nearly 2,100 housing units.
Atlis projects monthly rents to average around $2,000. “They will rent for substantially less than the apartments downtown or in the Central Avenue districts,” Mastry said.
“And everyone agrees that St. Petersburg needs more housing.”
A 23,000-square-foot grocery store centered along 34th Street is a project focal point. A 4,500 square foot outparcel building with 2,600 square feet of outdoor space will also abut the future Sprouts.
Frank Guerra, principal and founder of Coral Gables-based Altis Cardinal, said the commission’s timing was critical to complete an agreement with Sprouts officials before their deadline.
“Once their real estate committee makes a decision, if you don’t get approval within a certain amount of time – and we’re at the end of that outside date now because we got their approval in June – then the deal is no longer live in their system,” Guerra said. “The lease has already been negotiated with them.”
He added that if approved, Sprouts would sign the lease next week. Guerra said Altis would break ground on that site “as expeditiously as possible,” as it would drive traffic to other retail spaces.
However, public and commission concerns nearly derailed the project. Residents and attorneys representing the nearby West Shore Village and Marina Club Apartments spoke against the added traffic, density and construction disruptions.
Their concerns centered around impacts on 37th Street South. While Altis plans to build a roundabout where the proposed Skyway Village and Westshore Village entrances intersect, many opponents fear that will add to congestion and emergency vehicle delays.
“I can agree with Mr. Mastry that … this might be the best plan that has ever come into the Skyway Marina District,” said Commissioner Matt Walker. “But I don’t believe this is the best plan for this piece of property.”
Walker said 91% of the retail center-zoned project is residential. While he called the redevelopment a net positive for the city, he said it falls “well short” of the district’s master plan and “even further short” of zoning requirements.
“There’s nothing blended or commercial about this project,” Walker added.
City zoning administrators believe the development does meet zoning requirements. They also recommended the project’s approval.
Several commissioners thought the firm’s traffic study lacked pertinent information and adequate forecasts. Many expressed concern with project renderings showing the six buildings with identical architecture and facades.
Commissioner Michael Keirnan said administrators could implement traffic calming devices on 37th Street that have worked throughout the city. He also said roundabouts are useful, and “we are, frankly, morons in this country if we can’t figure out … they are the best way to get through an intersection.”
He also noted that Westshore Village is a gated community. “That’s not being changed by this,” Kiernan added. “You’re behind your wall and your security guard.”
However, he did share his colleagues’ concerns regarding the development’s “institutional” appearance. Guerra explained that Altis will utilize a different design team for each building and called the renderings architectural representations.
He said each color scheme and building articulation would vary. Guerra also said retail offerings encompass close to 18% of Skyway Village.
Altis will dedicate five floors of an existing nine-story building to community amenities. Those include coworking spaces, fitness and wellness centers, a dog spa and a sky lounge.
The developers will allocate the remaining four floors to office space. An existing three-story building would serve as a self-storage facility.
Altis will also provide 11,000 square feet of green space. Guerra said the Skyway Marina District can use the area for special events.
After proposing myriad stipulations, including two additional traffic studies as the project progresses, commissioners approved the project in a 7-1 vote.