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St. Pete’s tallest building soars through review process

Margie Manning

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An aerial view facing south of 400 Central

A development with a 45-story residential tower and 20-story hotel and office at 400 Central Ave. is moving forward, after the project won unanimous approval from the St. Petersburg Development Review Commission.

While a handful of critics said the project was out of character for the city, proponents said it would be an “iconic building” and the residents and office workers it will house will boost downtown businesses.

The new construction also will play a role in preserving locally designated landmarks. In order to maximize the density in the 400 Central project and provide more developable area, the owner, Cats Red Apple St. Pete LLC, will purchase “transfer of development rights” from local landmarks. Purchasing those TDRs prevents those historic properties from being demolished, city staff said.

Cats Red Apple worked with the city for two years to accommodate requests for office space and extra parking, said Don Mastry, an attorney at Trenam Law who represents the owner.

“This application is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan … If we can’t put a big building here, we can’t put a big building anywhere else in St Pete,” Mastry said. “I remember when we were booming downtown and I remember when we were dead too. When we were dead, our kids got out of college and left. They didn’t come back. Now we have our kids coming back and other people’s kids coming back and I don’t think we don’t need to slow that down.”

The project will cost about $300 million and will feature:

• A 45-story luxury condominium tower with about 300 one- to four-bedroom residences

• A 225-room luxury full-service hotel with more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space

• More than 25,000 square feet of retail, stores and restaurants along Central Avenue and 4th Street North

• About 20,000 square feet of Class A office space

• 842 parking spaces, some of which will be available to the public

• Modern architecture, with large glass storefront windows along Central Avenue, 4th Street South and 5th Street South

(See the gallery below for renderings by Arquitectonica.)

At 515 feet, it will be the tallest building in St. Petersburg. There are no height limits on buildings in the downtown center-core zoning area, but buildings over 450 feet require Developmental Review Commission approval. The Federal Aviation Authority also has to give its OK for the plans.

The 400 Central site plan, like other large-scale projects, was reviewed by various city departments, including water and sanitation departments to ensure the sewer system has the capacity to handle it, and the transportation department for potential traffic issues, said Corey Malyszka, urban design and development coordinator, responding to a critics who questioned the impact on the city’s infrastructure.

The property is not in a flood evacuation zone or the Coastal High Hazard area, he said in response to another concern.

The project addresses several pain points downtown, including needed office space and parking, said Freddy Cuevas, vice chair of the development review commission.

“This is an example how you save some of those older buildings,” said Commissioner Chuck Flynt, citing the transfer of development rights that Cats Big Apple will purchase.

The Development Review Commission approved the site plan, as well as the additional building height and the increased density.

Four commissioners — Calvin Samuel, Tim Clemmons, Jessica Ehrlich and Matt Walker — who live or work near the planned development did not vote to avoid a conflict of interest.

400 Central

Image 2 of 7

Another view along Central Avenue

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    Sonny Hotchkiss

    December 5, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    I’m confused …20,000 square feet of office space? That’s equal to 2 floors of the Plaza Tower – an aged dinosaur of a building around the corner. So the project has become a massive condo and hotel project with SOME office space. I thought we needed more office space to fill as more jobs are brought to the area (or as we try to appeal to those industries wanting to move). Did I miss something? We have enough luxury condos at the moment going up. We need jobs that can pay for those newer condos via companies attracted to our downtown and willing to expand and/or relocate. Luxury (resales) have faced price reductions yet commercial is poised to accelerate next year…..It’s a beautiful building and a nice replacement for the cheese grater building. Meeting space + hotel is a plus. I think the ratios on space are off — thanks – Realtor of 13 years and born and raised in St Pete

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