DUNEDIN – The Dunedin City Commission on Aug. 23 voted 4-1 to approve the repositioning of the Gateway Redevelopment Project. Commissioner Julie Scales dissented.
In the fall of 2006, the commission chose Pizzuti Builders LLC to develop the Gateway area, including property at Main Street and Skinner Boulevard, as a redevelopment project featuring retail, restaurants and medical office space. However, the economy soon turned sour, and over the last few years Pizzuti has tried to move in this direction but has faced major impediments due to the real estate market, economy and uncertainty in the health care field, according to a memo to the commission from City Manager Rob DiSpirito. So far, the owner of Pizzuti has invested $1.3 million in the planned development of the Gateway site. The company has reassessed and brought before the commission a revised plan for the site, which features 138 upscale multi-family units on the Gateway and Jernigan tracts, as well as two restaurants and retail on the first floor.
“The city’s own Economic Development Strategy Plan references the need for newer apartment rentals as a measure to attract working professionals,” the memo said. “Presently, Dunedin’s multi-family rental stock can be characterized as older, and not as attractive as newer products in surrounding areas such as Tampa, Clearwater, Palm Harbor and St. Petersburg.”
The project would target households as an “urban living experience” that would feature shopping, dining, entertainment and PSTA and Jolley Trolley transportation all within walking distance. The market segment Pizzuti is planning to attract is early- to mid-singles, couples and married people from age 25 to 39 with a household income of $40,000 to $100,000. The apartments could also be used for 55-and-older people who want to downscale their housing, either on a full-time or seasonal basis.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski. “Interestingly enough, the location of it, our trolley stops right there which would be perfect. … And you have a regular bus stop. You do have literally the whole transit system right there. So hopefully we can encourage the residents there to use them.”
Commissioner Ron Barnette said he feels this project symbolizes the gateway area, captures the pedestrian feel and sets the feel and ambiance going into Dunedin and downtown. He added that this project could also serve as a model for development in other parts of town as well.
Bob Ironsmith, economic development director for the city, said the goal is to not build so much that it takes away from downtown, but to add just the right balance and enticement.
Mayor Dave Eggers said that he understands that the economy made it difficult to do the original plan and that it is necessary to be flexible and move with the times.
“If this fits in our city, and I think it does, then I am happy,” Eggers said.
Commissioner Julie Scales was not as convinced. She said this is a signature project at the entry to downtown, and she said she does not feel compelled to do something immediately just because it is now easiest to get funding for multi-family housing. However, the other four commissioners liked the project and voted to approve it.
Ironsmith said that forward movement on the project will now be dictated by various approvals, but other than that, it is ready to go. He said building could commence by early 2013 if not the end of 2012.