Dunedin eye east end

City Manager Jennifer Bramley addresses the audience at the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City luncheon March 29.

DUNEDIN — Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski says residents can find evidence all around them of the city’s resurgence following the recession.

“I look at our downtown and couldn’t be more proud,” she said during a Dunedin Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 29. “It’s a kaleidoscope of innovative small businesses and entrepreneurs that attract both residents and visitors from all over. While together, they have created a vibe that is envious across Pinellas County.”

And there is more to come. Over the years, several discussions about the Gateway property on the east end of downtown has occurred and projects have fizzled.

But in the past year the city has drafted a plan for redevelopment and revitalization of the city’s east end in the downtown, she Bujalski said.

“Over the next several years, you will see key projects take place, like the Gateway,” Bujalski said.

“We see this property as a catalyst project that we expect once completed will be the anchor to our east. Given its importance, we’ve worked with the developer to create something unique and special,” Bujalski said.

Conceptual plans are expected to be presented before the commission this month.

“What I can tell you after some brainstorming and several field trips we expect to see a field court concept that will serve as a chef’s incubator. We also expect to see some additional public parking to support the potential revitalization of the east end,” she said.

The developer, Joe Kokolakis, has said the Gateway Center includes a 12,000 square feet project that will serve as the restaurant incubator.

“We see this property as a catalyst project that we expect once completed will be the anchor to our east. Given its importance, we’ve worked with the developer to create something unique and special,” Bujalski said.

City officials hope to see ground breaking on the project sometime next year, Bujalski said.

They also are working on the possibility of some establishing affordable housing on the east end of the city, she said.

“We understand that property values are rising greatly for folks, pricing people right out of Dunedin,” Bujalski said.

Later this year a housing needs study will be conducted, she said.

She also discussed development and related issues in other areas of the city.

Of concern is increased traffic along the Dunedin Causeway, where an average of vehicular trips per day occur, she said, citing a county study.

“If even half of those or more are going to Honeymoon Island, and the other half of those going to the Causeway, the usage of the bathrooms, garbage cans and sand roadways are just too much to keep up with, and the environmental impacts of human interaction needs to be monitored and controlled better,” Bujalski said.

Therefore, city officials are looking at what is needed to do a better job for the area, whether it’s partnerships with other governments or additional employee attention, she said.

Besides Bujalski, all four commissioners participated with City Manager Jennifer Bramley in giving in the State of the City address at the Dunedin Golf Club.

Bramley said she spent a week with department directors and their staff, discussing what they are doing to propose to the City Commission regarding the budget.

She asked city staff to retain the current tax rate, 4.1345 mills, and budget accordingly.

“That is what our goal is at this point,” Bramley said.

She noted that the city’s taxable value increased last year by 8.6 percent and by 11 percent in the CRA.

“We are hoping for the same year,” Bramley said. “So, we have based our budget upon a very conservative 6.6 percent increase. So when we increase by more than that, we are pleasantly surprised.”

Commissioner Moe Freaney is the city’s liaison to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Construction of the new stadium on Douglas Avenue is underway. The stadium’s capacity, Freaney said, will be about 8,500 fans, compared to the current stadium’s 5,500.

The stadium will have new restaurants and concession areas. Amenities also include a centerfield tiki bar and a larger Jays shop accessible from outside the stadium.

“They are working to get some community flavor in the concessions,” Freaney said.

Work on the team’s two-story training center, which will be about 100,000 square feet, started in mid-February.

“This is going to have anything and everything to do with training players year-round and just developing our next World Series champion, the Toronto Blue Jays,” she said.

Both projects are planned to be completed for spring training in 2020, she said.

Commissioner Heather Gracy, who is president of the Suncoast League of Cities, an advocacy group for area municipalities, said as of late March 1,600 bills had been filed by legislators for this year’s session. Six-hundred of the bills have municipal impact.

“So, in some way shape or form they can help us or they could not help us. That’s where we come in,” Gracy said. “Fifty of the 600 have local preemptions.”

Through the bills that have been filed, lawmakers are taking away cities’ authority to govern, she said.

However, she complimented Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying his ideas for funding water-related issues are drawing attention in Tallahassee

“It’s so great to see a new energy in Tallahassee and see our environment being worked on, being cared for,” Gracy said, “and listening to our legislators want to fund it, is even better I think for Dunedin.”

Commissioner Deborah Kynes, the city’s liaison for arts and culture, said the city approved a public arts master plan in the fall.

City officials are looking at establishing decorative mast arms with historical themes.

Both Kynes and the mayor mentioned that city officials will be addressing improvements for the Patricia Avenue corridor.

“I think maybe a mast arm would look great at Beltrees Street and Patricia Avenue,’’ Kynes said.

Artistic benches are being discussed, too.

“We’re also looking at the sighting of a first public arts project,” she said.

There’s been talk about using the John Hubbard linear Park on Edgewater Drive for such a project.

“Also, we will be rehabilitating and caring for existing art in public places,” Kynes said.

Commissioner Jeff Gow, the city’s liaison for the Dunedin Golf Club, said the club needs a new cart barn with a pro shop, he said.

When the club first looked at the facilities, they thought all that was needed was a new roof, Gow said.

“But after further analysis, we noticed that the whole thing does need to come down,” he said.

The club hopes to start the process this month and be done by August.

“And so, it will be done hopefully during the slow periods of the course and will be ramped up and ready to go when all northerners come back later in the year,” Gow said.