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Why this developer wants to build a car-free apartment complex

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of a proposed apartment building at 1663 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. All images: Bold Line Design and Kimley Horn.

Another apartment building is coming to St. Pete’s bustling downtown, but this residential complex will not offer on-site parking. 

During a Thursday St. Petersburg City Council meeting, council members unanimously approved the plans for the proposed 97-unit, car-free apartment building that will be developed at 1663 1st Ave. S., adjacent to the Tru by Hilton hotel. It’s currently the site of the Sunshine Kitty Cafe and the Dolman Law Group office. 

The building will consist of furnished micro-units less than 750 square feet. Thereby, per city code, the development team is not required to include on-site parking. 

“The expectation is residents would utilize public transportation,” a development team representative said, citing the SunRunner bus rapid transit line as a primary transit alternative. “In addition to bicycles and public transportation, once the project is leased up, based on the leasing and what is going on with the tenants, the developer would expect to enter into potential parking lease agreements with surrounding property owners as necessary.” 

Developers Craig Bazarsky of BendinRoad Development LLC and Christopher Bicho of Landings Real Estates Group are the joint venture partners behind the $25 million project.

This isn’t the team’s first attempt at building a non-car-centric complex. The team is developing a seven-story building in Tampa’s Water Street District with 104 units ranging between 400 to 450 square feet. The complex will offer seven parking spaces. 

Although councilmembers approved the St. Pete project, finding it consistent with the Intown West Redevelopment Plan, councilmember Ed Montanari voiced concerns as the future residents may still own vehicles and resort to street parking, causing more congestion and affecting the retail and restaurant businesses lining the corridor. 

While the representative reiterated the residents in the complex will take advantage of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s SunRunner 10-mile service line, Montanari said the local transportation system still “has a long way to go.” 

“This isn’t like living in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “People do have options – yes they can bike, yes they can get on the SunRunner, yes they can have an Uber, but I know there’s going to be a lot of residents living at this place that are going to have a car.” 

Councilmember Brandi Gabbard argued that micro-units, which in turn have lower rents than traditional larger apartments, are a tool to help address affordable housing and people will be less reliant on single-person vehicles in the future. 

“It [car-free apartments] is the future of communities; it is the future of downtowns and of urban-dense areas [in becoming] less car-centric. If we don’t have policies in place to support that where it makes sense, and a developer believes they have a market to support that, then we are really missing the boat,” she said. “We have to have a balance of both.” 

Gabbard mentioned there are several existing residential complexes in the city that also have limited or no parking.

According to the site plan, the ground floor of the building will consist of a lobby area (the entrance will be located on 1st Ave. S.), seven apartment units, a residential amenity space and a bike storage room. 

On floors two through four, there will be 15 units per floor. Level five will have 10 units and feature a rooftop pool and amenity deck. The remaining levels will have 11 units per floor.

A timeline for the project was not announced. 

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hugh J. Hazeltine

    July 12, 2023at6:09 pm

    Councilwoman Gabbard is a Real Estate Agent. In the past, she has displayed little interest in items that do not affect her district. Maybe this signals a change even though her reasoning is flawed here. As a person who has lived downtown for 33 years and rides a bicycle everyday I am home for transportation, I am still going to need a car. This idea will spill these tenants cars onto the street

  2. Avatar

    Sandy

    June 19, 2023at3:54 pm

    Totally agree Mike! Living here is not about those of us that who live and work here and pay taxes. It is all about taking the money and run. These developers have no skin in the game, yet we just keep catering to them. Seems like there is no Master Planning being done incorporating infrastructure, traffic/parking and keeping our character in tact. Doesn’t mean we can’t have progress but it sure seems like leadership is taking a nap.

  3. Avatar

    Jill B.

    June 19, 2023at3:28 pm

    I
    1) Can’t believe this was approved…what? and
    2) Think the poster of this article needs to retitle the article. Let’s be clear, the buyers of said units don’t give a hoot about what the developer “wants” them to use for transport.
    This is a money grab. The developer is saving a ton of money by not needing to build an appropriate support structure, I can’t imagine how many units would have to be removed from the project for parking.
    I would assume, with no factual basis other than life, 90% have at least 1 car, 50% likely two. This is passing unnecessary cost onto the current residents of the city to address.
    Just no. Developers need to plan for all that it takes to live in a unit, not dump cars onto the streets.

  4. Avatar

    Mike C

    June 19, 2023at9:41 am

    Totally ridiculous. I cant believe this was approved. More developers will follow. Cash grab.
    This assumes people who live there will nearly always utilize public transit?… flawed assumption. What happens when they need to get somewhere for any other reason off the transit grid? Where do visitors park? Parking is already horrible. Sun Crawler was the first step to destroying the culture and DNA of the city, changing zoning was the second step, this is the third step. Another step toward dismantling what makes St Pete special. Developer cash grab, city leaderships warped vision for the city.

  5. Avatar

    Sharry Davidson

    June 17, 2023at4:19 pm

    @Debbie Stubbs Well said!

  6. Avatar

    adrian bleackley

    June 17, 2023at4:19 pm

    Inevitably some residents will own a car and of course have visitors.
    This will only worsen an already difficult parking situation.
    Either on site parking is provided or residents of the building should be prohibited from owning cars.
    Otherwise this is a “head in the sand” solution!

  7. Avatar

    Starchgirl

    June 17, 2023at4:05 pm

    The developer wants to build a car free building because it’s cheaper for the developer. People will still have cars, and an additional 97 cars will be vying for street parking which is already a problem in St Petersburg. Council should never have approved this.

  8. Avatar

    Debbie Stuebs

    June 17, 2023at12:41 am

    Thank you Councilman Montanari for being a voice of reason. Valid points. I don’t think St Pete is ready for this nor do I think it’s realistic. We’re losing our charm. The reason people want to live here is being lost in the greed of others. I hope we hold on.

  9. Avatar

    Judith Turner

    June 16, 2023at4:30 pm

    All part of the 15-minute cities and geofencing.

  10. Avatar

    Julius Northrop

    June 16, 2023at12:45 pm

    Well that sounds good for homeless people and low income people cuz they rely on public transportation not all these other big pocketed individuals

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