An artist rendering shows the Gateway North luxury apartment complex, which broke ground Oct. 10 at the corner of U.S. 19 and Roosevelt Blvd.
Photo courtesy of PSTA
This conceptual drawing shows the Largo Commons bus station, currently being designed.
LARGO – Developers of a new 342-unit luxury apartment complex called Gateway North broke ground Oct. 10, at the southeast corner of U.S. 19 and East Bay Drive.
The redeveloped corner will include a Walmart Supercenter, currently under construction and due to open in January, as well as a new Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority transfer station. Additionally, a 6,119-square-foot Wawa convenience store is in the middle of development review with the city of Largo.
Gateway North, at 2681 Roosevelt Blvd., is the first high-end apartment community in Largo in roughly 20 years, bringing a new residential character to the area, said Carol Stricklin, Largo’s development director.
“This is an extremely important project for Largo Town Center,” she said. “It’s also a very important catalyst for redevelopment.”
Developers of the apartment complex, Pollack Shores Real Estate Group, worked with Walmart’s development team to completely redo the infrastructure of the entire parcel, revamping shared roadways and the sewer system, explained Teresa Brydon, Largo economic development manager.
According to information from Pollack Shores, Gateway North’s 16.25 acres will include a lake with a walking trail, a resort-style clubhouse with a “water-scaped” pool, cabanas, a fitness center, a business center and outdoor grilling and entertainment areas. The three-story apartments will have private patios or balconies, washer and drier connections, walk-in closets, ceramic tile, microwaves and dishwashers.
“This project meets our goal of developing along high-visibility, high-traffic locations with access to a substantial and growing base of employers coupled with numerous retail/entertainment options,” Steven Shores, company president and co-founder, stated in a press release.
The first apartments should be ready for residents in late spring 2014, with final completion scheduled for the fall. Matrix Residential will lease and manage the community, according to the press release.
Role of the fee moratorium
The Pollack Shores praised the city for Largo’s development team as well as its temporary waiver of city impact fees.
“The city’s moratorium on park and facility impact fees is the reason this project is a reality,” stated Anthony Everett, director of Central Florida for Pollack Shores.
Largo’s moratorium is due to expire by June 2014. Developers of projects that won’t be completed by that point have already petitioned the city to extend the deadline. Meanwhile, the city’s parks division and its community supporters have argued for the necessity of replenishing the fund that allows the city to purchase more parkland.
The new apartments will provide new housing for workers in Pinellas County’s Gateway area, one of the state’s largest employment areas, according to the press release.
“We support high-quality projects of this kind because Largo believes that being business-friendly is extremely important to promoting economic development,” stated Mayor Pat Gerard.
Walmart recently opened a temporary hiring center to staff up to 300 full and part-time jobs at the supercenter, scheduled to open at the end of January.
“Everything just finally is all starting to unfold,” said store manager Ron Frietas earlier this month. “I think it’s a great site.”
Frietas added that based on his interaction with neighbors so far, the community is excited to see a Walmart coming to the area.
The company is looking to transfer only 10 percent of its existing employee base to the new store. Walmart was able to apply for state job creation tax credits with the promise of bringing 150 full-time jobs to the area. To that end, the city of Largo approved a brownfield designation to the property in March, acknowledging that the previous occupants – including a truck stop and an auto repair shop – potentially left behind contamination that would have to be cleaned up. At the time, only two commissioners voted against the designation, arguing that tax credits should reward higher paying jobs.
The Walmart hiring center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. To 5 p.m., in suites 209 and 211 of Newport Square Office Park, 4625 E. Bay Drive. Applicants also can apply at careers.walmart.com. Through its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, Walmart offers jobs to veterans who have been honorably discharged from active duty in the last 12 months.
The address of the new Walmart will be 2677 Roosevelt Blvd.
PSTA transfer station
PSTA has an agreement with the site developers and the city to use a portion of the Crossroads parcel for a transfer facility. The station is slated for construction on the east side of the Walmart, along a retention pond. The new station will provide a safer place to transfer between four existing PSTA routes, replacing the current station along U.S. 19.
PSTA has allocated $600,000 in its current budget for the design and construction of four bus bays, shelters, benches and “real time bus arrival information” display boards.
Reconstruction of Tri-City
Meanwhile, Tri-City Plaza across the street from East Bay Drive is set for a renovation. Properties owners, Kimco Largo, have submitted plans for the construction of 229,884 square feet of new retail space, after the demolition of the existing plaza.
The redeveloped footprint will be built in two phases to allow some of the tenants to remain and relocate during construction.
“They’re going to bring the (disjointed buildings) in line with one another, so it’s not so dysfunctional,” Brydon explained. “Right now, when you try to drive around it can get a little difficult. That’s all getting changed.”
The Publix will remain, but the buildings to the east of the store – including the AMC movie theater – will be redesigned. The two banks at the front of the property are independently owned and thus, along with the Wendy’s and the Chili’s, won’t be part of the redevelopment. The Applebee’s restaurant will be torn down and reconstructed.