DUNEDIN — The Coca-Cola company will not be leaving their 27.5-acre site off San Christopher Drive until at least the spring 2024, city officials say.
In response to a question from a city resident, City Manager Jennifer Bramley gave an update on the status of the property at the City Commission's April 6 meeting.
City officials have been in contact with Coca-Cola representatives on a regular basis.
"Coca-Cola actually has actually been very accommodating in their communications with us and very open," Bramley said.
The company has opened up a plant in Polk County, and it is operating at full capacity, she said, adding that Coca-Cola needed additional capacity in their manufacturing through its plant in Dunedin.
Before Coca-Cola does anything with the property, the company will sell all their equipment, Bramley said.
“Then they will decide what they are going to do with the building itself,” she said.
The company at some point will market the property themselves, she said.
“They are willing to work with us to find and highest and best use of the property and not sell it for storage or anything like that," Bramley said.
Issues with the property could include access.
"For industrial use, you are driving through neighborhoods," Bramley said. "Some of their semis — that's going to be problem."
Also the plant's close location to the coast is an issue.
"A lot of manufacturers are not interested in being to the coast anymore because they would have interruptions in their operations when there are storms, unfortunately," she said.
The Urban Land Use Institute, a nonprofit research planning and urban development organization, contends that mixed-use affordable housing that would support bio-medical, pharmaceutical or other targeted industry is best use of the property, Bramley said.
"Lots going on and I assure you we have our finger on that pulse," Bramley said. "And we are watching it very, very closely. We are very grateful that Coca Cola has committed to work with us on the future use of that property."
The site also has historical significance. At one time, a building on the property was home to the largest citrus concentrate plant in the United States, according to Vinnie Luisi, executive director of the Dunedin Historical Museum.
Among other matters at the meeting, commissioners proclaimed April 6 at National Tartan Day in Dunedin. Alan McHale, president of the Scottish American Society in Dunedin, noted that this year is the organization’s 40th anniversary and that the acclaimed Celtic band Skerryvore will perform that day.
Also, Commissioner John Tornga reported that membership at Dunedin Golf Club is “very, very strong” at about 250. As recently as 2017, the club has been down to about 125 members, he said.
Tornga added that 70% of golf course rounds at the club are being played by non-club members.
"The same holds true on the food and beverage side," he said, noting that several civic organizations use the facilities for events and celebrations.