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Sunday, Oct 22, 2017
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Ex-Trump Tower Tampa site again a parking lot

TAMPA - Three years after the planned Trump Tower Tampa condo project went bust, city officials are letting the downtown site revert to its previous use as a parking lot. The city council approved the five-year temporary use last week over the appeals of their own staff, who argued that the city has spent the past 12 years trying to get rid of waterfront parking lots to guarantee public access to the river. "We believe the decision that was made over a decade ago should remain," said Cathy Coyle, the city's planning manager. Letting the former site go back to being a parking lot for the neighboring CapTrust building could lead to similar requests for sites elsewhere, Coyle said.
The change must be reviewed by the Hillsborough Planning Commission because it alters the city's land-development code. It will return for a final council vote in a few weeks. The site, just north of Brorein Street, is the last large parcel left to be developed on the riverfront, Coyle said. "We will continue to object to this particular request," Coyle said. The owners of CapTrust used the site just south of their building for parking for 30 years before the land was rezoned in 2005 for Trump's project. That rezoning let the land remain a parking lot until construction on the tower started. The developer, SimDag LLC, contracted with Donald Trump to pay him a licensing fee to put his name on the skyscraper and receive a cut of sales. However, the project collapsed in 2009. Brownstone Tampa Partners LLC bought the lot and adjacent CapTrust building in June. In recent years, the land has been the staging area for construction of the Riverwalk between the CapTrust building and Tampa Convention Center. Any sign of the land's previous life as a parking lot is gone. Brownstone attorney Ron Weaver told the city council the failure of the Trump project essentially reset the property to its original use. "This project is going forward with a grand future, but while the future is coming, the recession has clobbered the 2005 zoning for the Trump tower," Weaver said. CapTrust's owner said it needs the parking because the building contains fewer than 40 spaces, about a quarter of what it needs. That puts the owner at a competitive disadvantage, Weaver said. "This particular owner has tried to make the CapTrust building work with inadequate parking," Weaver said. CapTrust owner Trey Vick told council members the lot will be temporary. "We do not have an intention of creating a parking lot in the riverfront district," Vick said. While it exists, the lot will remain free to the public and will provide access to the Riverwalk, which crosses the property. "This is a way for people to come in and enjoy the investment the city has made in that river," Vick said. Ultimately, City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda was the lone vote against the parking lot request. Councilman Mike Suarez noted that the Brownstone site is the only one along the river that could be used even temporarily for parking. "It's is not a permanent process," Suarez said this week. "I thought it was a reasonable compromise until they can have a new tenant next door."

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7871
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