Henderson: Jan Platt rains on Buckhorn's parade
That was Jan Platt's signature word during her time on the Hillsborough County Commission and Tampa City Council. She argued and voted against projects and proposals so many times she got the well-earned nickname of “Commissioner No.”
She has mostly stayed out of the public eye since leaving the commission in 1994, but she was back in the game Thursday night. She spoke up at a public hearing on a developer's plans to build a 38-story apartment building near the Straz Center and the John F. Germany Public Library, raining “no” all over the development plans.
“That area is the crown jewel of downtown,” she told me Friday when I called her for a follow-up. “That high-rise is misplaced. To put it slap-dab in the middle of the cultural district is just weird.”
That earned her the wrath of Mayor Bob Buckhorn, especially after the city council agreed to delay any decision about the project until August at the earliest
“She's doing exactly what she has done for 28 years — attempting to kill any good project,” he said.
The tower is central to Buckhorn's game plan of attracting young professionals to live downtown. He steadfastly says that will change Tampa's long-term economic outlook.
“There's other land they can build on,” Platt said. “That particular land already attracts thousands of people downtown on a daily basis.”
They go to the Straz Center, the library, Glazer Children's Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art.
Building elsewhere is “easy to say when you're using other people's money,” Buckhorn shot back. “This site works fine.”
It's already too tough to find a parking space around there, Platt said, and this will only make it worse. She said it's not unusual to change a scheduled meeting at the library because too much other stuff is going on and there's no place to park. She said people attending events at the Straz already park in a nearby vacant lot.
Buckhorn called that objection “borderline hilarious and not even close to being grounded in fact.” He pointed out that residents would have a parking garage built into the tower. “To say somehow this is going to affect library parking is just absurd,” he said.
And there's this. Straz Chief Executive Officer Judy Lisi was among those Thursday who raised concerns about the proposed tower.
“That was news to us,” Buckhorn said. “Up until this meeting, they had indicated they supported this. To turn on the TV and see something totally different was aggravating.”
The back-and-forth aside, there is a lot at stake here. Buckhorn said a delay could kill the project.
“Time is money in the real estate business,” Buckhorn said. “You don't want to miss the market when financing is available and demand is high. Right now, the demand for housing downtown far outstrips the supply.”
Too bad, Platt said.
“This has been rammed down everybody's throat without any dialogue,” she said. “That's why I said what I did. This has just upset me so much. I am proud of downtown. I want to see it first rate.”