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Bliss breaks ground in downtown St. Pete

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Developers for the controversial Bliss Condo tower in downtown St. Pete officially turned dirt on the project Wednesday afternoon.

“What you see in front of you is an example of a community that’s coming together and creating the most admirable community in the world,” said St. Pete Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the 19-story luxury condo plaza comes following months of contention. Developer Brian Taub faced a long path as a neighboring condo owner, Michael Levy, pursued legal challenges and petitioned the city to block progress on Bliss.

Levy sued the city arguing the development plans didn’t comply with the city’s comprehensive plan. He argued the footprint was about 10,000 square feet too big for the space it would be occupying.

Looking at the speck of land where Bliss will soon stand, it does seem quite spectacular to imaginine a 30-unit, 19-floor tower rising from the space.

However, Taub answered all of the challenges. He even altered site plans to move the planned parking garage that includes a car elevator and provided space in plans for cars to wait if the elevator was occupied.

“There were a lot of hard issues that we all had to answer,” Steinocher said.

As of the groundbreaking only three units remained available. Owners of the future units ranging from about $800,000 to more than $1 million each gathered at the neighboring Smith & Associates office on Beach Drive.

The future owners, who will fork over in Homeowners Association fees what many people pay for a mortgage, sipped on blue cocktails, bubbling and steaming like a witch’s cauldron and munched on fancy hors d’oeuvres from behind a glass wall.

As the temperature soared both inside and out, celebrants held specially made Bliss fans with an LED message as the blades twirled welcoming each to the new development.

Also in that message – “Zero Neighbors.”

Bliss’s narrow footprint provides just two units per floor and none share a wall. That’s possible thanks to a corridor separating the two.

“This day has finally come. It’s been a long time. Patience pays off,” Taub said.

Among future residents mingling over cocktails was local architect Lisa Wannemacher. She’s a principal architect for the firm Wannemacher-Jensen and was behind the failed Lens design that nearly replaced the Pier. She also worked on the Destination St. Pete design that fared second in the city’s latest design competition.

Mesh architecture was a competing firm in that competition and is behind the Bliss design.

Robert Glaser, the Smith & Associates CEO, is also a future owner.

“Thank you for being here and getting a sunburn,” he said to a crowd of people, each either dabbing sweat or fanning it away under the hot sun.

During a short ceremony, Glaser handed over a $1,000 check for the local Police Benevolent Association.

“That is to the law enforcement folks that work in the St. Petersburg downtown market and make sure that we are living in such a great community,” Glaser said.

The money will be used for families of fallen officers.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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