SOUTH TAMPA - City council members on Thursday will consider plans for SoHo Flats, a mixed residential and retail complex the builder predicts would be the last major development on Howard Avenue. Pollack Shores Real Estate Group is requesting a rezoning of lots near 936 S. Howard Ave. to build the 212-unit SoHo Flats apartments, which also would have a four-story parking garage and more than 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Pending approval, construction of the project could begin in early 2014, said Anthony Everett, director of the Central Florida division for Pollack Shores. "I think the Howard Avenue district is evolving into something that is more pedestrian," Everett said. "I think the uses that we want to see on Howard Avenue are residential and mixed-use projects, rather than what we've traditionally seen in the bars and commercial uses."
The proposed complex would be built at the site of Joe Redner's now-vacant Xtreme Total Health and Fitness gymnasium. It would stretch across the four lots between Bristol and Morrison avenues, from Howard Avenue east toward the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. In addition to the rezoning, council members also will vote on whether to close a stretch of Eleta Street that bisects the four parcels. The lots currently are zoned for commercial use, Everett said, and given its prime location in a popular neighborhood, something is sure to be built there even if SoHo Flats isn't approved. SoHo Flats would be the latest in a handful of residential complexes to go up in the area in recent years. Pollack Shores' NoHo Flats, at 305 N. Rome Ave., is expected to be completed in January. Work also is underway on Post Properties' apartment complex at Howard and Swann Avenue, which also will have 10,000 square feet of retail space. Everett, a fourth-generation Tampa resident, said Pollack Shores wants to build something that is "less intense" than what could go on that piece of South Howard property. The development would improve the area's ambiance and make it more pedestrian-friendly, he said. "We think we're building something that's responsible and has less of an impact than what could be built there," Everett said. Still, some neighbors who live near the proposed SoHo Flats aren't happy about the plan. Nearby neighborhood associations expect to send at least 100 people to protest the development at the council meeting, said Anneliese Meier, vice president of the Parkland Estates Civic Association. "We don't feel that it's a good compatible use of the property because of all the variance requests they're asking for," Meier said. In the rezoning application filed with the city, Pollack Shores seeks permission to remove some trees, build an 8-foot-high fence and reduce the amount of landscaped area typically required for multi-family properties. John Jones, a member of the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, said the group's board is protesting the closure of Eleta Street in addition to the zoning variance requests. "Quite a few people still use that street," he said. "That's not just a street to nowhere. People use that street to get around traffic and it provides on-street parking." Everett said he has met with neighbors at least 30 times and tried to address their concerns as much as possible in his project designs. Because it is a residential complex, there will be a different traffic pattern from the nearby bars and restaurants, he said. Also, the parking garage would have 518 spaces, which is more than required by city code. Depending on traffic and the time of day, more than half of the garage could be open to the general public, he said. "I really feel that we've got a project that is a balance," Everett said. "I think this will be better for Howard Avenue in the long term." Ebehrman@Tampatrib.com (813)259-7691 Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO