Despite past opposition, Straz Center to welcome 31-story downtown tower with open arms

After ten years, officials finally broke ground on a 31-story residential tower in Tampa on Thursday. 

"This was a vision that 10 years ago not a lot of people saw what it can be and now if you look at this community and you see this transformation you realize what we're talking about," said former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. 

Buckhorn spent years pushing for the building.  Initially, it was opposed by the Straz Center, reportedly due in part, to construction concerns.  In the end, an entire new city block was formed. The former mayor says it will be transformational.

"It has been a challenging journey but at the end of the day when this building is finished, it was the right decision a decade ago and it’s clearly the right decision moving forward," Buckhorn said.  

The new residential tower is called "Arts and Entertainment Residences" and will include 334 high-end rental units.  It'll also features street-level retail and a 500-plus space parking garage above it. 

"For this particular tower to go up and to be residential is incredibly important for our community as we do face this housing crisis," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. 

READ Tampa project for tallest skyscraper on Florida’s west coast on hold over historic preservation concerns

The building is being designed as a focal point of the city's River Arts District.

"We’re in the fishbowl amongst the museums and the Straz Center and we're going to make sure we take care of the residents and everybody around the perimeter as well," stated Sean Demartino, president of Coastal Construction. 

READ New Florida program gives critical workers down payment assistance, lower mortgage rates on first homes

Tampa's newest tower set for completion in the spring of 2024.  Rental costs were not yet available.

Fox 13 also spoke with Straz representatives who say the past is the past and they now welcome their new neighbors.