Crane working on St. Pete's Bliss condo hits nearby building, reviving size concerns

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By Susan Taylor Martin  

Published November 27, 2015


ST. PETERSBURG — A large crane being used in the construction of the 17-story Bliss condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg brushed the side of a nearby building, knocking in a hole that is now covered with plywood.

The incident, which occurred within the last two weeks, did not cause any injuries or major damage. But it revived concerns about Bliss, which critics have complained is too big for its narrow site.

"My condo is about 125 feet from that crane. I'm looking directly at that crane,'' Robert Churuti, who lives in nearby Parkshore Plaza, said Tuesday. "I can guarantee that that's certainly within the (crane's) fall zone.''

The hole is in the parking garage of Rowland Place, a new mid-rise condo next door to Bliss whose residents include former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. Susan Jezek of JMC Communities, which developed Rowland Place, said the homeowners association had been in contact with insurers about the damage.

"Apparently it was a minor thing,'' she said.

No one from the association could be reached for comment. William Voeller, whose Palm Harbor-based Voeller Construction is the general contractor on Bliss, did not return calls for comment.


Geert Benoot, a Realtor who lives in Rowland Place, said a structural engineer is being called in to look at the hole, which he estimated to be about a foot by two feet.

A construction crane used to build the Bliss condominium project in downtown St. Petersburg punched a hole in the side of the Rowland Place condominium complex, left, which was covered with a wood plank.

"It's probably $1,000 to fix it but they're going to make it more expensive because an engineer is coming in,'' Benoot said. "Do I like a hole in my garage? Absolutely not but accidents happen. I would probably be thinking differently if I had a crane in my unit.''

Michael Levy, who owns a condo in the much larger Parkshore Plaza, had tried to block construction of Bliss on the grounds that it violates the city's comprehensive plan and exceeds the maximum "floor area ratio'' for buildings in that part of the city.

But a judge in September ruled in favor of the city and Bliss developer Brian Taub. Work began soon afterward, and the skeleton of several floors is in place. Taub already had modified plans for Bliss by relocating a controversial garage with car elevator that Parkshore residents complained would create noise and traffic problems.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires cranes to be erected and operated in accordance with federal standards, but does not routinely inspect sites where cranes are being used.

Les Grove, area director in OSHA's Tampa office, said he had not heard of the Bliss incident and generally doesn't hear about any incidents that don't cause deaths or injury.

"We don't routinely check every crane,'' he said, "but our folks are driving around (construction areas) and can stop if they see something.''

Benoot, the Realtor with a unit in Rowland Place, said construction activity and big buildings all around are to be expected in a vibrant urban area.

"People say, 'I want to live in the country but have it in the middle of downtown.' It doesn't work that way.''