City discusses options for Coca-Cola property

City commissioners and officials are mulling over several options for the future use of the Coca-Cola property, including the city buying the 27-acre site.

DUNEDIN — City commissioners and officials are mulling over several options for the future use of the Coca-Cola property, including the city buying the 27-acre site.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said Oct. 19 that commissioners have heard a lot, such as they are going to build four-story homes on the property "and we are just going to be inundated with people."

So, commissioners understand that their constituents don't want that, she said.

"I don't think any of us are saying what we do want and what we don't want. It's just really a matter of these challenges and what the next steps are," Bujalski said.

In a detailed report presented to Dunedin officials by the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit education and research institute, under one scenario city officials would buy the property off San Christopher Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and seek proposals from developers that would carry out the city's vision for the property.

Bujalski asked Julia Silva, a member of the Urban Land Institute's Technical Assistance Panel, if she was saying the city should buy the property.

"That ultimately would be the way to control this," said Silva, who has 27 years of industrial real estate and related experience.

Many discussions are expected before any decisions are made. Coca-Cola's relocation of its plant will not be completed until next summer, city officials said.

The cost of the land was estimated at $13 million to $16 million if it is zoned for industrial use.

In addition to evaluating zoning uses, city officials will also study the traffic impact of property uses. They also plan to engage Coca-Cola representatives in discussions as much as possible.

Land is scarce in the Tampa Bay area, said Silva, and the commission has an opportunity with the property, which she called a "great infill site."

Commissioner Deborah Kynes said the ULI has always offered the city "tremendous expertise."

"I really want to do something so innovative," she said.

Silva encouraged commissioners to keep up their dialogue with Coca-Cola. If the company has the same vision that commissioners do, it will make decisions easier for them, she said.

Four scenarios were included in the written report. A summary follows.

1. The market dictates future industrial user. According to the panel's report, a new industrial user would buy the property directly from Coca-Cola and the use is dictated by the market and bound by the requirements of the zoning district.

Zoning regulations allow for a building floor ratio equivalent to about 800,000 developable square feet, which is significantly larger than the current Coca-Cola facility.

Once the building is complete the tenant can lease the space and the tenant does not have say over a particular tenant, the report says. This could result in a user that has a higher impact on the surrounding transportation network.

2. The real estate developer contracts with Coca-Cola to buy the site and pursues rezoning to modify the potential use for the site for something other than industrial.

In such a scenario rezoning the property would also affect the land use plan, thus likely entailing many months of negotiation and engagement with the community. In the end the rezoning may not go through and the developer will be left with a site for which an industrial use continues to remain required.

3. This scenario envisions a mix of uses on the 27.5 acres, which would include but not be limited to industrial uses.

The site could include design elements that connect and engage with the Pinellas Trail.

Multi-family residential units could be added along the western and northern

edges of the site, fronting the trail and San Christopher Drive, providing residents with access to recreation and connection to points north and south into downtown.

The scenario will require complex land use and zoning changes.

4. The city would buy the property directly from Coca-Cola and run its own request for proposals process.

This scenario provides the city with the greatest degree of control over the future of the site.

A downside is the property could sit idle for an extend period of time due to lack of consensus on future use.