Gibraltar Wins Initial Approval
CHANNEL DISTRICT - To make way for the future, a little bit of the past must go. That was the situation facing Tampa City Council as it considered voting on the first phase of a massive redevelopment slated for Channelside and Adamo drives. In the end, the council voted 5-0, with Mary Mulhern and Thomas Scott absent, to give initial approval to Gibraltar Development Corp.'s plans for 1,105 condominiums, 55,000 square feet of retail and 298,000 square feet of office space. Gibraltar submitted about half of its 22 acres to the council for rezoning. The other half awaits approval from the state because of waterfront issues, as well as council approval. Gibraltar hopes to have the total parcel rezoned in 11/2 years. The project would replace a holdover of the port industry, once the dominant tenant along Ybor Channel before the cruise industry took over. International Ship Repair & Marine Services will relocate before the first of three condominium towers is constructed. At 304 feet, the building would be the smallest tower. One snag remains before Clearwater-based Gibraltar moves forward. The company wants to close a portion of 14th Street, south of Adamo, which is used for access to International Ship Repair and dead-ends at a security checkpoint. The request sounded fine to council members until it was underscored with photographs that the block-long portion is made of bricks. The street closure requires a public hearing, which is set for April 17, the same day as the final vote on the rezoning. "I really hope the bricks won't be lost," Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said at the March 27 hearing. She suggested the bricks, a part of Tampa's past, be reused on the site or given to another project. David Gamble, a Boston architect working with Gibraltar, told the council the project would be among the first to develop the northern end of the waterfront. He said the time frame is 15 to 20 years for the three buildings; construction of the first tower would begin in two years. Councilman John Dingfelder said he is excited about Gibraltar's promise of a 1,000-foot public walkway around the channel, including five parks, one with a new streetcar stop. Dingfelder suggested a dog park be part of plans to landscape under the Selmon Crosstown Expressway. He also wondered how Channel District residents and the public would gain access to the property. Local architect Albert Alfonso, who is working with Gibraltar, said there will be three or four ways to reach the 3 1/2 acres of parks, including at the streetcar stop. "We very much wanted to open up the area," said Alfonso, who described the architecture as warm modernism. City urban planner Wilson Stair said the project's design is welcoming. "They wanted it softer and inviting rather than a fortress," he said. Tom Taylor, president of the Palmetto Beach Community Association, said the parks will be within walking distance of his neighborhood. He said the community supports the project, which is next to the planned site of Ikea, a Swedish furniture store chain. "The project is far superior to what's there now," he said.
Reporter Janis D. Froelich can be reached at (813) 835-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.