St. Petersburg officials have ruled out two proposals to redevelop the downtown Municipal Services Center and are moving forward with discussions with two other potential developers.
The city will continue to talk with The Allen Morris Company in Coral Gables, as well as with a joint venture between two local firms, Third Lake Partners and Echelon LLC. Each of those plans calls for constructing a new Municipal Services Center on vacant city-owned land on 2nd Avenue North, near City Hall, and replacing the existing Municipal Services Center at Central Avenue and 4th Street with a mixed-use project.
The rejected plans were from Blake Investment Group and from a joint venture between Property Markets Group and Feldman Equities. Lincoln Property Co. also responded to a request for proposals from the city but later withdrew from the process.
The Property Markets Group/Feldman Equities joint venture also proposed building a new mixed-use structure on Central, with a new MSC constructed on 2nd Avenue, but it had the highest cost structure for the city, according to a letter to the developers obtained by the St. Pete Catalyst. In that letter, the city’s development administration also cited required rent payments by the city at the current MSC building during construction; an inability to determine a valuation for the city-owned property related to residential development at the new MSC site on 2nd Avenue; and the need to acquire additional neighboring properties for the Central Avenue project.
A spokesman for the PMG/Feldman joint venture declined comment.
The Blake Investment proposal called for a free-standing, single-use and purpose-built facility on 2nd Avenue. Instead of tearing down the existing MSC on Central, Blake would have renovated that building for office and retail space.
“I think the best interest of the city is in doing things that are pragmatic and realistic and keep the fabric of what we built together. That’s the plan I put forward,” Blake Whitney Thompson, CEO and founder of Blake Investment, told the Catalyst. “Our proposal kept the city affordable and brought jobs to downtown and didn’t require neighboring property owners to sell.”
Each of the two remaining development plans highlighted their advantages in their best and final offers to the city.
Key takeaways from the Third Lake/Echelon plan include development of what is now a vacant lot at 200 Central Ave. that is owned by Third Lake. The partnership said it has the financial wherewithal to complete the project and will provide 400 parking spaces, which developers said is the largest number of parking spaces among all the plans put forward. There are no contingencies in the offer, such as requirements for adjacent land purchases or increased floor area ratios, which could be met with public opposition, the proposal said.
In addition, “The Partnership’s principals are lifelong local residents and have proven their commitment to the City, and are long-term oriented,” the Third Lake/Echelon proposal said.
The Allen Morris plan would include workforce housing at both the Central Avenue and 2nd Avenue sites, a total of about 99 units, the company said in its best and final offer. It also said it would spur economic development and increase the city’s tax base by developing mixed-use projects on both 2nd Avenue and Central Avenue, and would not require a public hearing, because the proposed developments are within the city’s current zoning.
Allen Morris is “an established sponsor with a proven track record in commercial, office and multi-family mixed-use developments. The team has developed mixed-use projects in markets across the Southeast U.S — including St. Petersburg,” the company said.
It will be up to Mayor Rick Kriseman to select a plan and recommend that plan to the City Council. The City Council has the final say on approving an agreement with the developer.