Developers are trying once again to revive plans to build a 19-story condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg on a plot of land that has remained vacant for more than a decade despite numerous plans to build on it.
This time the development group, The Driven Ziggy, is taking its battle over the controversial Blue Lotus building formerly known as Bezu, to court.
The group saw its plan squashed for at least the third time in as many years last month when the City Council, convened as the Community Redevelopment Agency, voted down the proposed development on a split vote. Approval for such projects requires a supermajority.
The developers argue that vote was based on public comment from residents in two adjoining condo developments — the Flori de Leon and Spanish Palms — they say amounted to “no more than a gripe session in which ill-informed members of the public vented their dislike of the project.” The Driven Ziggy further argues in its lawsuit that it would suffer “irreparable harm” if the development does not win approval.
City Council members Charlie Gerdes, Amy Foster, Brandi Gabbard and Ed Montanari voted in favor of the development while Steve Kornell, Gina Driscoll, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Darden Rice voted against it.
Developers argue those who rejected the project did so based on sentiment rather than law. They say the project fits within the city’s zoning ordinances and note the development, which had been scaled down from previous proposals, was recommended by city staff and was approved by the city’s Development Review Commission.
Critics appealed the DRC’s approval last September, but lost the appeal on the same split vote that ultimately bode in their favor. The appeal required a supermajority vote, which the appellants did not get. But developers also needed a supermajority vote from the CRA, which they did not get.
Now it’s up to the courts.
If it ever gets built, the Blue Lotus would include 18 residential units in a 180-foot tower at the corner of 4th Avenue North and First Street North in downtown St. Pete. The plan is scaled down from the original Bezu proposal, which would have been a 288-foot tower with 29 residential units.
Over the lengthy approval process, developers for Bezu scaled the project down from a 288-foot tower to about 180 feet and also cut out plans for nine units beyond the 20 approved.
The property was first purchased with the intent to develop it into condominiums in 2007.