We assume the mayor was talking about the Tampa Bay Times' John Hill, who again delivered a powerful fusillade against the project in the newspaper's lead editorial today:
The project doesn't belong in the cultural arts district for the same reason that no towers are there now. For years, the city's guiding ethos has been to locate high-rises along Ashley Drive or toward the pedestrian Franklin Street retail district. The arts and waterfront districts have been set aside as open, public spaces, with protections that preserve the view corridors to the river from the interior streets. Turning urban design on its head is bad enough. But this tower would dwarf its entire surroundings. It would stand more than three times as tall as the Straz and nearly seven times as tall as the adjacent library and Poe garage.
(Update: The mayor contacted CL this evening and let us know he was not referring to any editorial writer, but Tampa Tribune columnist Steve Otto, who has also big critical about the development. "Big difference" writes Buckhorn).
But he's hardly the only opponent, and the question remains: Will the City Council do something at tomorrow night's meeting that has yet to happen in the Buckhorn era — reject a proposal that the mayor strongly supports?
"This a dramatic mistake," said former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt of the project, which she criticized months ago when it was first floated. "What a legacy they'll leave for their children and grandchildren," she added, referring to if the board approves the request.
It's obviously a big deal for Buckhorn, who placed the Council members' contact phone number on his Facebook page today, urging them to support this project, as well as another that is scheduled for discussion at the meeting.
Originally the board of trustees for the Straz Center opposed the Residences at the Riverwalk, but last month in a blind survey, they voted 32-16 in support of it; fourteen other board members abstained from voting. This came after the mayor made a pitch for the tower.
Some opponents of the project told CL that they were "troubled" by Buckhorn's presence at the meeting, saying it created an intimidating effect for both the Straz board and the City Council.
There's also the reality that both the Straz and the nearby Tampa Museum of Art receive annual subsidies from the city, making for an awkward situation if they were to rebuke the mayor's request.
"How noble can they be?" asked Platt of those organizations.
Some nearby residents said they plan on attending the meeting to let the Council know they oppose the project.
"The biggest issue is the size and scope of the building located within the Cultural Arts District," said Jeff Zampitella, who resides at the nearby Skypoint building. "If you took the building and you put it to our north on the vacant TECO lot or you put it to our southeast lot, it's actually consistent with the community redevelopment act and the vision master plan since 2005."
CL asked Zampitella if he was acting out in a NIMBY-style way.
"I say that it's more about the city and the Cultural Arts District than about anyone's view," he maintained.
Platt said under Tampa's strong-mayor form of government, it's hard for the Council to actively oppose the city's leader. "Have you seen them turn down anything?" she asked.
The City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, with the apartment tower project slated to be discussed at 6 p.m.