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Tower near Mirror Lake receives approval despite concerns

Mark Parker

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A New York City-based developer recently received approval to build a $109 million mixed-use tower at the corner of the Arlington Avenue and Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. St. in St. Petersburg. Image: screengrab, city documents.

Multiple Development Review Commissioners empathized with residents whose townhomes will soon abut a 21-story mixed-use tower; however, they ultimately approved the project as it met St. Petersburg’s downtown zoning regulations.

New York City-based Abacus Capital Group received site plan approval for the $109 million development at the Feb. 7 commission meeting. City officials also granted the real estate investment firm floor area ratio and building height bonuses.

The development will feature 292 market-rate apartments, ground-floor retail shops and a 373-space parking garage at 825 Arlington Ave. N. The property is less than a quarter mile from Mirror Lake.

Several residents from a neighboring townhome community, the Arlington, emailed letters and spoke in opposition to the project. Concerns included neighborhood compatibility, increased traffic, a lack of a buffer and a narrow alley that the developer will use as an access point.

“Overall, it’s a beautiful building,” said Commissioner Matt Walker. “I just feel like, as usual, we’re kind of put in the position where we have to play mediator between the development community and the neighbors …”

The building will feature 292 market-rate apartments, ground-floor retail shops and a 372-space parking garage. Image: Screengrab, city documents.

Abacus bought the property on the corner of Arlington Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street in April 2022 for $10.75 million. A unified site plan, approved in 1997, includes the neighboring Frontier Communications building and a veterinarian’s office.

Those facilities will remain. Abacus is building the 21-story tower on a .77-acre surface parking lot – according to Pinellas County property records – abutting the Arlington Townhomes’ property line.

The District Townhomes sit directly across Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. from the proposed development. Craig Taraszki, the applicant’s local attorney, noted that the city did not require a traffic impact study.

He also stated that a 15-foot alley could “handle” traffic entering and leaving the tower’s six-story parking pedestal. Several residents and some commissioners pushed back on that assertion.

Greg Proctor said he lives in the townhome closest to the development. He used slides to illustrate that two cars cannot simultaneously pass through the alley.

“We only use it for the entrance to our townhomes,” Proctor said. “The exits are on 2nd Avenue North and Arlington Avenue, and that is to avoid cars passing each other. Factor in emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, utility vehicles – it’s going to create a ton of congestion.”

One of a resident’s slides shows his car parked in the alley. The developers will build the tower to its left. Screengrab.

He said residents’ front doors face the alley, which lacks sidewalks. Proctor said that is also where they put out their garbage and pick up their mail.

“Having all these people walking around this alley while we have a 400-car garage … causes a risk of danger to pedestrians that are coming and leaving their residences,” he added.

Taraszki said that according to an official memo, the area would see 99 new “peak p.m. hour” trips. He added that city code allows alley usage, and many other developments operate without traffic conflicts under similar scenarios.

Proctor noted that Abacus placed the tower’s utilities near the townhomes, including dumpster staging areas, generators and a pump station. He also highlighted how the developer did not include a parking garage façade on the side facing residents.

“This is not a townhome neighborhood,” Taraszki said. “This is downtown.”

A representative from Baker Barrios, the project’s architect, pledged that the dumpster would remain enclosed outside of pickup times. He said the building’s transformers and other equipment would create “minimal” noise.

Walker suggested relocating the parking garage entrance closer to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. Representatives said they thought that was unsafe and needed the additional space to accommodate a ramp.

Commissioner Michael Kiernan also took issue with the development team’s approach. “These folks (residents) don’t trust these guys,” he said. “They weren’t consulted.”

Another slide shows proposed and current townhome communities (yellow) surrounding the project site (red). Screengrab.

Once complete, the 212-foot-tall building will feature a 1,056-square-foot lobby and leasing office. Its 1,357 square feet of retail space will front Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

The commission approved the proposal with two conditions. The parking garage must feature decorative screening on the eastern side facing the townhomes, and Abacus must also create a landscaping barrier.

The developer must provide at least $1.09 million to the city’s Housing Capital Improvements Trust Fund to receive density bonuses. “I got to support this – I think it’s a good project,” Kiernan said.

“But I understand their (residents) thoughts and concerns, and it kind of bothers me when we get to a hearing stage … and it’s kind of dumped in our laps,” he added. “Then we’re told today, ‘Oh, well, we’ll put something on the east side.’ Well, why wasn’t that done before.”

The developers agreed to implement decorative parking garage screening facing the Arlington Townhomes. Image: screengrab, city documents.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    RITA SEWELL

    February 18, 2024at8:31 am

    This seems to be the world we live in right now. I live at Burlington and 8th. The proposed multi story building on the corner of 2nd and Mirror Lake Drive has similarities. We
    enter and exit our apartment through the alley, and I do not know how a building of the size they propose will not limit access. We have watched the Reflection Tower being built at the corner of third and eighth Street. That construction project has taken over the huge parking lot behind Tomlinson. How do you stage a large project like this without impacting surrounding areas? It appears that the codes established in 2007. We’re done without any consideration of the impact it would have on the lives of current residence of the downtown area of St Petersburg.

  2. Avatar

    John Tindell

    February 14, 2024at8:51 am

    It’s all about money… the city doesn’t care about the people who live here. Traffic is beyond terrible. Just keep building condos
    for the rich folks… the quality of life for people who have lived here for years is going down….

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