Developer: Tampa tower could ‘one-up’ Beach Drive in St. Petersburg as waterfront destination

Tampa Bay Times

Written by Susan Taylor Martin

TAMPA – Riverwalk Place, a 53-story tower planned for downtown Tampa, will have four restaurants, “many, many” outdoor tables and a rooftop bar atop the garage.

And that’s not enough, developer Larry Feldman says. Ideally, the project will spur what he calls the “Beach Drive-ification” of Tampa’s entire Riverwalk.

“I don’t want to hear any more, ‘Why can’t downtown Tampa be like downtown St. Pete?’ ” Feldman said Thursday in reference to the bounty of restaurants and cafes along St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive. “I hope (Riverwalk Place) will set an example for everybody else in town.”

Feldman made his remarks at the annual meeting and luncheon of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, a business and civic organization that has seen the city’s once stodgy downtown become much more of a work-play area due in large part to the Riverwalk. Yet the promenade along the Hillsborough River still lacks the bustle and variety of Beach Drive, a shortcoming that Feldman says his mixed-use tower next to it will help correct.

“We have the ability to one-up (Beach Drive) because we are right on the water whereas Beach Drive restaurants sit back,” he noted.

Expected to start construction next year on the site of the doomed Trump Tower Tampa project, Riverwalk Place would be the tallest building on the Florida’s West Coast. Its design will be a not to what Feldman called the “sardine-ization of America” – the tendency of companies to save costs by squeezing more employees into less space.

For that reason, Riverwalk Place will have balconies on every office floor so employees can step outside, get some fresh air and network.

The tower also will cater to millennials, who make up a good part of downtown Tampa’s workforce, by including “chill zones” with cappuccino machines and the type of fitness center where even “gym jockeys will feel really comfortable,” Feldman said.

Many millennials in the audience were befuddled, though, by Feldman’s comment that Riverwalk Place will be so modern it could have been designed by “George Jetson’s architect.” The millennial generation hadn’t been born when the futuristic TV cartoon series about the Jetson family aired in the 1960s.

Feldman says he expects to open a sales office and release more detailed plans for the tower in September. Although it has generated the most attention, the tower on S Ashley Drive is just one of several projects that will benefit from proximity to the Riverwalk.

“Riverwalk truly has been the tipping point for the refocus and redirection of downtown,” John LaRocca of Hillsborough River Realty Corp. told the group. His company won City Council approval in March for three high-rises on the west side of the Hillsborough, including the 40-story riverfront Lafayette Tower with condos, offices and hotel rooms.

LaRocca said the company initially planned only offices but rethought the project as the city began to revitalize both sides of the river. “The mayor’s map that evolved,” he said, referring to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ”became an affirmation of what we were envisioning with the river as the center” of downtown instead of its western boundary.

The third speaker, Arturo Pena of the Related Group, said the river was a major factor in his company’s decision to buy the riverfront site of the former Tampa Tribune and build a 400-unit apartment complex there. Related is also the lead developer on Tampa’s massive revitalization of its West River area.

Asked why Miami-based Related chose to come to Tampa, Pena had a quick reply:

“In a nutshell, jobs and the waterfront.”

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