PINELLAS PARK – A proposed 432-unit apartment community was approved for a major development revision in anticipation of a new buyer for the 39-acre property within the Gateway Centre.
Peter Creighton of Hardy Huntley-Gateway LLC, the current owner of the property, said an agreement with the new buyer and developer – The Richman Group, one of the nation’s largest apartment owners – is still in the works.
“We’re not at the finishing line yet. We’re trying to get there,” Creighton said.
The Pinellas Park Council gave its initial approval for the apartment project in October 2011, then slated for ownership by Douglas Partners, a company based in Winter Park. But the new potential owners had a different idea.
The project presented to the council Sept. 13 encompasses 14 four-story apartment buildings, built on the northern two-thirds of the property, instead of 18 three-story units spread out over a larger area. The community would offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, but no four-bedroom units as in the original plan.
“We took the hard way to get here. We could have easily developed the plan that was approved last year, went on our way, cleared the entire 39 acres and developed a three-story garden style product,” said Damon Kolb, development associate for the Richman Group. “We’re bringing in a new product type that we feel will appeal to a much broader spectrum.”
Instead the project will be a luxury rental community, he said. The developers had to request approval from the council to make the requested changes and to specifically increase the maximum building height from 50 feet to 58 and allow for a decrease in parking spaces. The result of the changing the layout of the buildings was a reduction of asphalt parking and an increase in open space, explained Robert Pergolizzi of Gulfcoast Consulting, representing the developers.
“The overall goal was to achieve a greater setback from the Progress Energy power lines on the western boundary of the property,” he said.
The new plan calls for 476 one-bedroom apartments, 216 two-bedroom apartments and 40 three-bedroom apartments. It eliminates the beach-style volleyball court in the original plan and adds a dog park to the list of amenities that include a club house with pool and hot tub, tennis courts, a tot lot, playground and a nature walk.
The developers also agreed that “any parking issues” would be “taken care of,” the conditions of the plan read. Councilman Rick Butler pointed out to the developers that the criteria was pretty open-ended.
“We don’t want to have parking problems,” Pergolizzi agreed.
Pergolizzi explained that the ratio of 1.06 parking spaces per bedroom hadn’t changed. The project now calls for a total of 770 spaces for 728 bedrooms as compared to 864 spaces for 816 bedrooms in the previous plan.
However, the ratio did change from two parking spaces per unit as first approved to 1.78 spaces per unit.
“To me, that’s pushing it,” Councilman Ed Taylor commented.
Kolb said the Richman Group usually found that a ratio of 1.5 spaces per unit was “right around the sweet spot.”
“In the over 10,000 units that we manage in the state of Florida, we have a pretty good idea on how many spaces we need on a project,” he said. “You have to remember, not everyone is home at exactly the same time.”
Apartment complexes cater to tenants with a mix of occupations, working a variety of shifts and traveling away from their homes during holidays, he said. The new building layout created an equal distribution of parking throughout the site, he added.
Also, the property would be developed in two phases, with only 320 units built to start, Kolb said. This would allow the future owners to correct any parking issues that might develop by using green space to create more parking or reducing the number of units they build in the second phase.
“What we don’t want to do is develop a big box parking lot, where we took down at lot more trees than we needed to for the hope that we were going to have a parking problem,” Kolb said.
The council also encouraged the developer to take advantage of a dollar-to-dollar credit toward the project’s transportation impact fee by building a bus shelter near a future Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority stop in the style of the apartment complex buildings. Kolb said his company was prepared to work with the PSTA and pointed out that the Richman Group’s recent project in Largo, Bayside Court Apartments, had such a bus shelter.
“It’s the feature of the community as you drive in off Clearwater-Largo Road,” he said.
Butler commented that the unanimous approval for the changes was a testament to the city’s good working relationship with the Gateway Centre landowners Hardy Huntley and Creighton.
“That’s a first. Peter, we really have a lot of faith in you,” Butler said.