The straight facts on tower
Objections to a proposed 36-story residential tower in downtown Tampa have focused largely on an early plan that did not include the skybridge that now runs from the William F. Poe Parking Garage to the John F. Germany Public Library and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The developers quickly included the pedestrian walkway in the plans, but opponents remained skeptical. Any doubts about the developers' intentions should be eliminated by a letter they sent to Straz CEO Judy Lisi the other day. The letter pledges the project would maintain an elevated walkway to the library and the Straz, and it addresses a number of other concerns.The current walkway would be demolished during construction, but an interim covered path will be built for use until the new skybridge is completed. This should put to rest any worries about access to the library or the performing arts center being curtailed. The developers also confirmed the project will make road improvements that should benefit the center - and the library. Cass and Tyler Streets will be made two-way streets, slowing traffic and enhancing pedestrian safety. Tyler will be extended to the center's arrival plaza, which will be enlarged, providing more ground-level parking. To protect the Straz from construction delays affecting attendance, the building firm Beck Group will provide proof of insurance to cover any claims for business interruptions. In addition, developers Greg Minder and Phillip Smith have pledged a $1 million gift to the Straz and promised to work with the center on "cross-marketing and advertising efforts." We hope they will work closely with the library as well. But all these details should erase any doubts Straz officials have about the tower - whose bottom floor should bring much-needed retail and restaurants to the area around the center. The $85 million high-rise is to be constructed on a 1-acre tract the city will make available by putting together two landscaped medians, parts of the roads and a bit of the center's entrance way. The tower is being designed to complement its surroundings, and is well back from the Hillsborough River - the Straz and the Tampa Museum of Art are much closer to the waterfront. The developers will pay the city $4 million as part of the transaction, and the 350-unit complex should generate roughly $1 million in additional property taxes. But more importantly, the venture will bring more people, businesses and vitality to downtown - which should benefit the Straz, the library and all the enterprises in the vicinity.