A 13-story, 114-room boutique hotel in St. Petersburg’s Edge District is poised to move forward despite concerns from nearby business owners about potential parking problems.
The City Council unanimously approved the project at its November 10 Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, saying that the purpose and aesthetic of the hotel at 1111 Central Ave. fit with the city’s redevelopment plan for the area.
Edge District Business Association executives agreed. But they struggled with a proposed valet parking lot west of the hotel, which they said could clog traffic along that stretch of Central.
“This is a key area in our district, right off the roundabout where traffic is already congested,” said Board Chairman Sean Mulligan. “Having an on-site valet that requires boarding and exiting on either Balm or Central Avenue will create traffic issues for the rest of the borough’s residents and business owners.”
Board member and former City Council Chairman Leslie Curran said developers Eastman Equity Holding agreed to a 10-year commitment for offsite valet parking — “and then they really gave it up at the last minute.”
Eastman partner David Moore said investors behind the $26 million hotel rejected that 10-year window, especially since no cars will be parked there until 2024 at the earliest. In order to move forward, the project needed a parking plan that met city ordinance requirements, and the on-site valet meets this.
“We will be doing offsite parking deals in the future,” he said. “I didn’t come back to the Edge District ill willed to do anything wrong, but it really isn’t a good business decision right now.”
Hotel valet parking is provided by Evolution Parking and Guest Services, a Tampa company specializing in hotel valet parking. Jack Kane, the group’s director of business development and customer solutions, said that kind of traffic would be minimal, maybe a few dozen a day.
“I understand that this can seem like a really difficult logistical issue,” Kane said. “But we routinely park over 200 cars a day at the Hilton Tampa Downtown, Hyatt Place Hyatt House Downtown, and nationwide in dense urban areas with 300, 400 hotel rooms, much smaller zones, and much more difficult offsite scenarios.”
The hotel is to be built on a green space site adjacent to Intermezzo Coffee and Cocktails, with the adjacent Baum Avenue Market building being converted into a restaurant space. It would have a public garden at street level and a walkway connecting Baum and Central avenues.
Curran said Wednesday that the Edge District Business Association has not yet scheduled another meeting with developers to discuss the parking issue, but is confident it will. The city and association are in the early stages of developing a master plan for the Baum Avenue area, and Curran said parking will be a factor in projects like this hotel.
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“I think the Edge showed that we favor development,” she said. “We just want smart developments and things that work with residents and retailers.”
While the city’s vote of approval means the project can proceed with the existing park plan, both sides and city officials agreed to continue to seek a solution that works for everyone.
“I still have concerns, but I have some confidence in the discussions that have taken place so far between the district board members and the developer and this team,” said Driscoll. “There are more conversations to be had and I hope they will keep talking.”