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Massive Skyway Marina project narrowly clears first hurdle

Mark Parker

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A Sprouts Farmers Market will anchor the 34-acre Skyway Village project. Frank Guerra, principal and founder of Altis Cardinal, said the two parties would complete a lease agreement "next week." All renderings: Altis Cardinal.

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.”

Skyway Village will reimagine the former Ceridian business campus at the southwest corner of 34th Street and 30th Avenue South.

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.

A look at potential street-facing commercial options.

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.

An overhead site plan for the redevelopment.

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.

Monthly rents for the project’s nearly 2,100 housing units will average around $2,000.

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.

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Steve

    October 7, 2023at6:21 pm

    Paved paradise? Deny this plan which is within zoning rights with no variances because of a bunch of NIMBYs? Perhaps you should drive through this property as-is: “paradise”? Um, okay…nice song quote at least. And denying within right zoning is a good way for a City to go bankrupt in the State of Florida via lawsuits. This is an improvement by any measure with much needed housing.

  2. Avatar

    David S Goodwin

    October 7, 2023at3:16 pm

    Contrary to the title of this piece, this project was given a strong approval in a courageous vote by the DRC. The opposition was classic NIMBY. Thank you City staff and DRC for looking at the merits of the project. I trust that the developer, with strong leadership from Staff, will ensure that needed architectural varition is implemented to prevent an otherwise well conceived design from being sterile.

  3. Avatar

    Anne Carrel

    October 7, 2023at11:54 am

    It’s a shame we have lost our only large parcel of property left in St Petersburg to this massive development. Drive by the property and admire the green space now, it will be gone soon.

    They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.

    Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell – YouTube https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=94bdMSCdw20

  4. Avatar

    AJ Broome

    October 6, 2023at8:16 pm

    We are already beyond the average price of $2000. Prices average $2500+- now, one bedrooms are around 2 grand

    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.

    Will there be any affordable housing?

  5. Avatar

    Nick Smith

    October 6, 2023at1:14 pm

    So very sad that the DRC approved this with the surrounding community so very opposed to this project. If the 106 people that submitted opposition to this project wasn’t enough to get this stopped I don’t know why the DRC even votes! They let every development pass as long as the projects appearance is pretty enough on paper. Every member that sits on the DRC should be ASHAMED of their lack of action. Just because you spend 8 hours deliberating a project that WILL NOT BENIFIT the community, should not translate into a YES vote just to avoid another long meeting. The DRC has once again proven that they do not have its residents backs. The current office park isn’t putting strain on the Potable water supply or additional sewage down the drain. Yes, they will have a Gray water system to flush toilets with and nothing else! This is a Joke and the DRC is going to MAX out our infrastructure and we will be in TROUBLE. This will all be “Luxury apartments” Just like all the rest and will never be Affordable to the average St Pete Resident. Myself along with 106+ Skyway Marina Residents see no positive trade offs in building 2000+ apartments and one TINY grocery store.

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