TEMPLE TERRACE — A Burger King restaurant that recently opened at North 56th Street and Chicago Avenue is likely the last new project at the $155 million downtown redevelopment district site for the foreseeable future.
City leaders and Vlass Temple Terrace developers, who have been at odds about the project’s construction plans for nearly two years, have begun to sever ties, the culmination of a relationship launched with high praise and fanfare at a groundbreaking ceremony in July 2010 on 29 acres at the southeast corner of North 56th Street and Bullard Parkway.
In the latest twist, Vlass officials have offered to sell the remaining undeveloped 22 acres of the project site to the city for nearly $4 million.
Rather than consider the proposal, the Temple Terrace City Council directed its staff to explore ways to get the partially developed property handed over to the city. They also asked for an accounting of money spent on the project and asked staffers to investigate whether the city has grounds for legal recourse against the developer.
Mayor Frank Chillura and council members said they were disappointed to see the relationship with the Vlass group deteriorate.
“Since I have been in office, this project has been critical,” Chillura said. “Its completion is critical to the city of Temple Terrace.”
City leaders formed a partnership with Atlanta-based developer Mike Vlass and his partners in 2010 after the development group took the lead to fulfill the city’s decade-long dream to create a pedestrian-friendly, “new urbanism”-style town center.
The Vlass team proposed building a luxury apartment complex on the site. It considers the complex an essential part of the development plan because no condominium market exists.
Residents and city leaders disagreed. They envisioned a downtown sprinkled with shops, restaurants, offices, civic and cultural buildings, and privately owned residences — including condominiums.
City staffers and members of the Vlass team also have struggled to agree on zoning and land development matters, and clashed on topics such as first-floor ceiling heights and parking.
In a letter dated Dec. 9, Vlass officials offered to sell the land to the city for $3.88 million. They also included an option to hold onto it for future development.
David Smith, Vlass’ attorney, said his client has remained committed to the project but has questioned the city’s desire to work with Vlass.
“They really missed the window,” Smith said. “The market is fundamentally different.”