Council to debate Tampa Heights riverfront project
TAMPA - City council members have set two public hearings next month for debating city hall's proposal to scuttle the long-stalled development plans for a piece of the city's riverfront. City officials have argued that pushing the reset button on the Tampa Heights Riverfront development could open the property up to new ideas. Thursday's proposal prompted an objection from developers with designs for the property. "Today is not the time and place to discuss the question of default," attorney Ron Weaver told the council.Weaver represents developers Adam Harden and Chaz Bruck, who own 12 acres between North Boulevard and Ola Avenue at the western end of the property. Weaver said his clients, through the companies Riverfront Heights LLC and Soho Capital LLC, have spent nearly two years trying to make something happen on the Tampa Heights property. They've been held up by the legal problems that have overshadowed the rest of the property. But as those problems resolve themselves, there's more potential for turning the vacant property around, Weaver said. In 2006, the city and developers settled on a mix of uses for the property: nearly 2,000 residences, almost 300,000 square feet of office and retail space and 100 boat slips. Killing that existing development agreement — and forcing the developers to craft a new one — will only make developing the property that much harder, Weaver said. "I don't think we need to improve on the old one," Weaver said of the development agreement. "We stand ready, willing and able to pick up the mantle at the Heights," he said. Weaver said several companies have approached Harden and Bruck about the property, but nothing is in the wings at this point. "They're being very circumspect about what is the right mix of uses," Weaver said. In the meantime, the Tampa Heights Riverfront continues to sit in limbo behind a chain-link fence. The future of the Tampa Heights property could be tied to Water Works Park and the Tampa Riverwalk. The park will be the northern terminus of the as-yet unfinished Tampa Riverwalk. Last month, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced the city had won a large federal grant that will finance the final links in the Riverwalk as it moves north from MacDill Park. To make sure that the Riverwalk users have an actual destination, the city council approved $4.7 million in redevelopment taxes to develop the park along the river near Doyle Carlton Drive and West 7th Avenue. Tampa Heights residents thanked the city for moving ahead with developing the park. Lena Young-Green, a representative of the Tampa Heights Neighborhood Association, said the park project "is one of our dreams come true." "This one is really, really achieving one of our goals," she said.
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