City Manager Rob DiSpirito can envision it already:
A pedestrian-focused block extending downtown to the hospital, with green space, apartments, retail shops and restaurants welcoming visitors at downtown Dunedin's easternmost gateway.
It's been a long time coming, and would be such a boon for downtown, he said following Thursday's commission meeting at City Hall.
And they're so close to setting the plans in motion.
Developers of the vacant 4.1.-acre prime downtown parcel at Main Street and Milwaukee Avenue, across from Mease Dunedin Hospital, get six more months to close the deal, commissioners decided Thursday.
But DiSpirito expects them to be ready much sooner than that.
Plans have been delayed for the better part of six years because of setbacks Pizzuti Builders suffered due to the down-turned economic climate, and then the process of figuring out the right formula for residents to parking, retail and green space, was "like a Rubik's cube," as Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski explained March 7.
The builders presented its latest plan 124 high-end apartments, likely in the $880- to $1,200-a-month range, and 24,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
"The addition of residents living in downtown would also support the various existing shops and restaurants located downtown and City-wide," city documents say. The plans caught the attention of popular Palm Harbor restaurant The Lucky Dill and satisfied one commissioner who was reticent about the builder's last proposal in August for more than 135 apartments.
"Thanks for making it more mixed use," Commissioner Julie Scales said to the builders Thursday. "I had serious reservations about all residential there."
Although some negotiation and tweaks are still taking place, staff proposed a $998,000 final price tag — the combined fair market value of the remaining tracts — along with a slew of incentives, including a discount on development fees for donating the entire Jernigan part as public parkland, waiving building permit fees (which was also given to Achieva Credit Union) and other discounts.
"This is really the home stretch," DiSpirito said.
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Pizutti promised to purchased the vacant land in two phases for an agreed total price of $2.1 million in 2007. To date, the company has paid for one part for $1.2 million. The builders have pointed to the recent economic plight for its slow progress.
DiSpirito maintains that the company "has remained a steadfast partner" to Dunedin, explaining in city documents that Pizutti has shelled out $3.3 million in infrastructure improvements and land since its 2007 purchase.
The city's most recent land appraisal put the fair market price of the remaining parcel under $1 million, at $746,000, in April 2012. A second appraisal for a part of the parcel known as the Jernigan tract, totaled $252,000 in fall 2011.
- Final Deal Draws Closer for Downtown Gateway Project
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- Vacant Gateway Lot Gets More Time