TAMPA - Tampa could add another residential high-rise to its skyline next year if the Tampa City Council gives final approval to plans for a tower proposed for the heart of the Channel District.
The new project, SkyHouse Channelside, will stand in the center of the rapidly evolving Channel District area east of downtown. It's the second tower the city council has approve in two months for the district.
Council members voted 7-0 to approve the rezoning for the tower. A final vote is set for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at Old City Hall.
Councilwoman Lisa Montelione voted for the rezoning despite misgivings about the project's size.
The 23-story tower and its 6-story parking garage will tower over the district's other buildings. Montelione noted.
"Scale is important to me," she told the developers. "It just seems like it does not fit for me."
The developers reminded the council that it approved five high-rise towers for the Channel District back in 2006. Those projects were put on hold after the real estate market collapsed a year later, but the approvals are still in place.
The future of the district looks very different than its present, attorney Turett Gardner said.
"What you see on the ground there is not what's been approved," Gardner said.
Last month, council members approved a similar tower about a block north of the SkyHouse project. The Martin, by veteran Channel District developers Ken Stoltenberg and Frank Bombeeck, will stand 24 stories tall and feature 316 apartments.
The SkyHouse will be developed by Atlanta-based Novare Group, which built downtown's SkyPoint and Element towers. Novare built its first SkyHouse tower in Midtown Atlanta.
The developers say they could break ground on Tampa's SkyHouse in September and finish it a year later.
SkyHouse will have 320 apartments - about 25 percent less than council originally approved - with gym, pool and patio on the top floor.
The building will cater to the 25-to-34 age group, a demographic cities across the Southeast are eager to attract, said Novare President Jim Borders.
Other SkyHouse projects are in the works in Austin, Texas, and Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn repeatedly invokes all three cities as Tampa's competition for the young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs who he hopes will drive future economic growth.
Buckhorn also frequently points out these young people prefer downtown living to the suburbs. Demand for Tampa's downtown housing is outstripping supply at the moment, he says.
In the 2000 census, downtown and the Channel District had about 600 residents, many of them in the old Morgan Street Jail. Today, the jail is gone and the area has 10 times that many residents with more coming.
So far, the Channel District's biggest hurdle has been its lack of parking.
Many of the buildings there have one parking space per unit, making it hard for couples or roommates to find room for all their cars, said architect Steven Smith, whose office is in the district.
The lack of parking means some of the district's street-level retail spaces remain idle, Smith said.
Kevin Woods said his company had to buy and demolish the neighboring buildings on 11th Street to make space for parking.
"From our perspective, parking issues are important," he said.
Novare President Borders said the SkyHouse project will help answer that need by including 142 public parking spaces in its garage.