Neighbors: "McMansions" squashing historic charm in St. Pete

Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-12 17:55:06-04

Homeowners in St. Petersburg are desperate to stop the bulldozers in their neighborhoods. Historic homes are being torn down and replaced with huge mansions.

It’s a problem in several communities across Tampa Bay, including Old Northeast, Snell Isle and Kenwood. Investors are buying up the old homes, demolishing them and building larger.

It’s a sight that makes Melanie Toppe cringe. “Oh no here we go again,” she uttered as another historic home turned into rubble, “It’s really a crying shame.”

She and her neighbors call the new homes McMansions.

Laura Harrington adds, “They’re like behemoths. They take up a whole block.”

The homes tower over their 1920's and 1930's bungalows.

“We bought here for the trees and the ambiance and it’s changing. Like it or not, it’s changing.” Neighbors are in the fight of their lives to preserve Old Northeast’s historic charm.

They’ve hung “Preserve Historic Old Northeast” flags in protest and are petitioning St. Pete leaders for help.

St Pete is proposing some pretty big changes. One thing they are looking into is forcing homes to only be built on 50 percent of the total area of the lot or 70 percent of the lot if the builder uses techniques that make the home look smaller.

That may not keep away the bulldozers from nearly 60 homes on the demolition list, but will help new homes blend in.

Christian Hern is working to renovate several homes in St. Pete and says blending old and new construction is essential to keeping the look and feel of the neighborhood. “I think if it’s done right and it’s done well it will make this neighborhood both unique and beautiful,” Hern said.

Other builders are blasting the city’s idea to limit the size of new construction. Martin Frame of David Weekley Homes told leaders in an email, ”I don't think it's the government's business to tell a family what size home they should have.''

Meanwhile, Toppe’s neighbors are buying up and renting out as many of the old homes as they can, in an attempt to save them from the wrecking ball.

City staff members are meeting with neighborhood groups about the changes and will meet with St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce on April 26.