First published on Dunedin Patch Friday, June 14, 2013 at 6:08 p.m.
By Local Editor Katie Dolac
Have you heard the one about Walmart moving into Causeway Plaza?
It's a rumor that spread rapidly among residents in the past week.
Inquiries have poured into Dunedin Patch in recent days from readers eager to learn what's to become of the 1970s-era shopping center, which serves as the gateway to Honeymoon Island State Park.
Some residents claimed the mega-retail chain signed a 25-year lease, still others say they heard Walmart bought the shopping center and intends to move into the Sheriff's Youth Ranch Thrift Store and Family Fitness.
Although the shopping center seems like it would appeal to a chain like Walmart, what with an expansive 566-space parking lot and 116,800 square feet of leasable space, city officials have spoken in the past of economic studies that show the Causeway corridor just doesn't provide the financial promise that attracts big retailers like Target and Walmart.
Finding truth to the rumor proved difficult Friday afternoon.
"Have not heard of any such transaction," Bob Ironsmith, the city's economic and housing development director, wrote in an email to Dunedin Patch.
A Walmart spokesperson was not available for comment Friday afternoon.
Property records also show the shopping center has not changed hands since it was purchased in 1997.
The Pinellas County Property Appraiser, an office that maintains records of all land sales in the county, could not locate any recent transactions involving property owner Walvekar Florida Properties, LLC, a corporation registered to Vijay Walvekar of Michigan and Palm Harbor.
The city does have long-term plans to develop the plaza, as expressed during a January 2011 city workshop.
Any redevelopment would be similar in spirit to the apartment-retail block proposed for the vacant Gateway property in downtown Dunedin, city planners have said.
Dunedin leaders have already set zoning and codes that would support low-rise buildings and mixed residential and commercial uses on the causeway and other corridors.
Results from the community vision workshops suggest this area become a “gateway” to Honeymoon Island or, at the least, an activity center. The Causeway Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Causeway Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard is at the end of its intended life cycle and represents an opportunity for redevelopment able to introduce support uses and urban space that would satisfy the need for a mixed-use activity center.
Change the Shopping Center (SC) and General Business (GB) zoning designations to Residential/Office/Retail (ROR), thus enabling the four corners of the gateway area to redevelop into a mixed use center.
So is Walmart coming? Not likely and not any time soon.
- Causeway Could Get Makeover
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