DUNEDIN – Design review for a project that’s shaping up to be downtown’s signature mixed-use development won unanimous preliminary approval from the City Commission but not without a few suggestions on how the enterprise might be tweaked.
Situated on property in the center of downtown that until summer 2017 was occupied by Ocean Optics, Courtyard on Main is designed to become a focal point in the city’s popular tourist district; its large asphalt parking lot that is now leased to the city.
If the project clears the city’s site planning process, when completed in about two years Courtyard On Main will encompass an area fronting Main Street, with Douglas Avenue and Pioneer Park on the west, the Pinellas Trail to the east and Monroe Street to its north.
The mixed-use Mediterranean-style development will include 18 residential condominium units, along with 25,657 square feet of commercial and retail space, room for two restaurants and a 7,490-square-foot public-private courtyard.
In addition, 20,178 square feet of office space will be available in a redesigned Ocean Optics building and additional structures; the entire complex will be served by a 158 space above-ground parking garage.
During the Oct. 18 City Commission meeting, City Planner Greg Rice told commissioners since the city initially approved development of parcels encompassing the parking lot, Arlis Construction purchased the Ocean Optic building at the northwest comer of Douglas Avenue and Main Street. The developer would like to merge the properties together to create one cohesive project.
Since that initial hearing, Rice noted the developer changed the look of the project to include a mixture of facade types, with toned down colors from the initial submittal.
“Additionally, the glazing on the ground floor is larger and the ornamental details such as the columns are simplified to achieve a lighter look for the structure. The scale of the facade is also reduced in the revision to achieve a more human scale,” Rice said.
The new structures will wrap around the existing Ocean Optics building to hide the structure from street view and form a courtyard space between the buildings. The courtyard space will be open to the public during the daytime hours and limited access for residents living at the complex.
Architect Jim Graham told commissioners developers decided to incorporate office space into the development after receiving requests from prospective tenants wishing to rent the Ocean Optics building.
Graham told commissioners the new development converts the existing three-story office building and parking lot into a new, three-story multi-use retail, commercial and residential development with four levels of parking in the Mediterranean Spanish Revival style.
The proposed first story will be a combination of retail and commercial with the potential for a restaurant along Main Street; the proposed second and third stories to be a combination of retail, commercial and residential condominiums with the potential for a second level restaurant, he explained.
The upper two floors of residential condominiums are two-and-three bedroom units, sized approximately from 1,400 to 2,100 square feet, designed to meet the current real estate market in Dunedin. The center of the project will include a pocket park courtyard that is for both private and public use, and will be available for local art festivals, craft fairs, music and other activities
“Continuous building step backs above the second level, with projecting balconies and landscaped terraces, will create design features that provide visual interest and reduce solid wall effects,” he explained.
While Graham said the potential to incorporate solar energy panels into condominium units will be offered to potential buyers, commissioners wondered why it was not provided to all tenants as well as to retail shops.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski asked the developer to consider utilizing solar energy in the retail component.
She also expressed concerns for pedestrians walking along Douglas, when large trucks are making deliveries or when landscaping amenities are placed at the corner of Main Street. Graham said deliveries would be timed for the early morning hours and trucks would have a place to pull into the complex so pedestrians will not be blocked.
Bujalski also questioned how traffic along Douglas would be impacted by a proposal to include seven parallel parking spaces on that side of the project, which was requested by staff.
Commissioner John Tornga said there may be a number potential condominium residents that would seem to want solar. He also asked the developer to take another look at providing the option.
Bujalski suggested staff take a look at removing center medians along Douglas Avenue to provide more space along travel lanes. She added the city should also ask the PSTA to relocate its bus stop off of Douglas, especially during construction, to eliminate large buses from adding further congestion.
Tornga said he “appreciates all the work that has gone into the project. I think it will be an awesome project in its completion. I appreciate how developer worked with the staff and the willingness to look at solar side; I’m very supportive of project.”
Commissioner Heather Gracy said “it’s been a long time. Thank you for seeing it through. We will now have community-centric transformative project in downtown core. This is a terrific project. I’m very excited about it.”
Commissioner Deborah Kynes said “it’s been a long, long journey; it’s in an iconic spot, if you talk about the heart of the city.”
Commissioner Maureen Freaney said everyone worked very hard to balance property rights and public interest.
Bujalski said “a lot of people are still upset we didn’t purchase the property.”
A final hearing on the design review is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 1.