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Arts / Culture

Straz Trustees Appear Split on 36-Story Tower

Framework Group, LLC.

Developers have addressed a few concerns surrounding a 36-story apartment tower they’re proposing next door to Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

The Straz trustees met Monday afternoon for a “tower project” update from the developer and to vote in a non-binding survey.

Phillip Smith, President of the Framework Group, LLC, promised the trustees that he would delay construction until next May so it doesn’t interfere with the center’s Broadway Series. He also agreed to keep the elevated walkway to the parking garage and offered the Straz a $1 million unrestricted donation.

What he did not address directly was criticism about the scale of the high-rise squeezed onto an acre of city land.

Architect Jim Jennewein was involved with design of the Straz Center, the downtown library and the Tampa Art Museum. He said the vision for Tampa’s cultural arts district is unique.

“In my mind, to build a 36-story building within this group of buildings is completely out of scale and the wrong thing to do,” Jennewein said.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn defended the “scale” of the tower known as Residences at the Riverwalk which is planned directly west of the downtown library and adjacent to the Straz.

“Let me tell you, this is not going to block the waterfront,” Buckhorn said. “This building (the Straz) sits 67 feet from the waterfront. The Tampa Museum of Art 127 feet from the waterfront. The proposed Residences at the closest is over 200 feet from the waterfront.”

Buckhorn said the Straz already has traffic problems and approving the project will give the city the $4 million from the sale of the land to pay to fix the traffic flow.

While some trustees spoke in favor of the developers, several opposed the tower fearing it will increase  traffic because of its 10,000 square foot commercial space and 500 new residents.

Smith told the gathering that a traffic study estimates the tower would generate only five additional vehicles an hour.

The trustees were surveyed for an up or down vote which is only advisory. Results won’t be available until at least Friday.

Tampa City Council is scheduled to discuss the 36-story tower project again August 8th.

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