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Lucky Dill Interested in Dunedin Gateway Location

The conceptual plan for 138 upscale apartments along with two restaurants and retail stores for the downtown Gateway tract in Dunedin was approved by city commissioners on Thursday.

Palm Harbor restaurateur Jason Mitow has been eyeing Dunedin for years.

And even though his popular  is sketched in as the centerpiece of Pizzuti Builders' conceptual renderings of Dunedin's downtown Gateway project last week, it's far from a done deal.

"We're working to make it a reality," Mitow said Friday.

The at the long-vacant 4.1-acre plot across from  includes 138 upscale, one- and two-bedroom, multi-family units, along with two restaurants and retail stores on the bottom level.

Most of the Dunedin city commission raved over the conceptual plan on the basis of attracting a younger demographic to downtown and generating an estimated $340,400 in annual property tax revenue and $2.17 million in annual sales.

It was approved 4-1 during the Aug. 23 public meeting with Julie Scales as the dissenting vote.

"As a young person I would have loved that," Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said during the presentation of the plans Thursday. Bujalski is a longtime resident and graduate of .

Pizzuti Builders purchased part of the Gateway land for $1.2 million in 2007. Originally, it was going to be used for mixed medical offices and retail space, but the economic downturn delayed the sale of the second half of the land, and thus, the land has been sitting primed and ready for years. The land now has a just market value of $890,000, according to the Pinellas County property records.

Pizzuti still must negotiate the purchase of the second land parcel. 

In March, the commission further delayed the project and granted a nine-month extension for Pizzuti to close the sale. The deadline to close is approaching. 

The prospect of more downtown dwellings does not excite everyone.

Scales, who offered the only dissenting vote, said she understood why the plans changed, but had "serious reservations" about moving away from the original spirit of the project, which was meant to help hospital needs and be a "signature" entry to downtown. 

"I don’t feel a compulsion to do something just so something can happen right now," she said. "My preference is to wait..."

Pizzuti Builders explained that no one from the hospital expressed a need or interest in using the space, so plans were changed to accommodate what the market would support: mixed, family-use apartments, retail and restaurants.

It's the overall ability and openness to market needs that makes Dunedin attractive to Mitow. 

"The city... does a great job of understanding business and balancing the uses downtown so as to be beneficial to the city as a whole," he said. 

If the Gateway project continues to moves forward as the builders hope, Mitow could open a smaller version of his Palm Harbor restaurant downtown in late 2013 or early 2014, he said.

"It's a really exciting quintessential American downtown," he said.

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John Tucker August 29, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I watched the discussions very closely when this project was born and I said then that Pizutti would never complete what they promised. I see now that I was right after all! Many discussions were held at Got Wine and Cigars by our customers about this project and NO ONE believed it would become a reality. Also, when I saw the stop of construction and delay in payment 'AS PLANNED AND AGREED IN THE PURCHASE' to the City by Pizzuti.....I KNEW THEN IT WAS A DONE DEAL!!! My question today is....WHY DID THEY NOT DO THEIR HOMEWORK WITH MEASE before the big plans? Sorry, but that makes no sense to me. I must agree with the vote and reasons for her vote by Julie Scales. As for bringing more young people to the city....WHY DO THAT...when one of the City Commissioners tries to stop festivities that attaract young people????? Specifically, St. Patty's Day at Flanagan's!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not a resident of Dunedin, but as a former business owner of 9 years in Dunedin, I wanted to make my comment and feelings known. I have probably made a few enemies with this comment, but I can live with that.
Bob Hackworth August 29, 2012 at 05:15 PM
John is right! While the new conceptual plan is great, it's very similar to the one the City stopped from happening ten years ago by buying the property out from under another developer in order to control the use for something else. The new concept is also very similar to one the city rejected during the 2007 RFP process - choosing instead Pizzuti for a subsidized "signature" development that now won't happen. After all these years and the the millions of public dollars already expended, another public subsidy for Pizzuti serves only Pizzuti's interests, not the public's best interests.
David Barmore August 29, 2012 at 05:46 PM
John is right! Our downtown businesses deserve cooperation and support and many of the city staff and council are very helpful, but some cater to the tyranny of a vocal the minority that put their minor inconvenience above the enjoyment of thousands and the goodwill our events generate.
John Tucker August 29, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Well said Bob!!!! They promised a lot and delivered nothing except to clear the property and put the street in. BAD DEAL as I see it and yep....they're from Cleveland I believe. They aren't concerned with Dunedin at all.
Bob Hackworth August 29, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I don't blame Pizzuti for looking out for their best interests, but the city has to look out for what is in the best interests of the public and clearly the public purpose DEAL never got done. Even the clearing of the land and the new street were funded with public dollars!
Bill McElligott August 30, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Well said John Tucker ! We currently have 6 restaurants in the down town area for sale . Which ones will close when Lucky dill comes in and steals their customer base oh i know the price of progress. Dunedin needs solid jobs and business to bolster its bedroom community tax base .
Albert P. August 30, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I wish it was more attractive. More in the style of our quaint downtown.
patricia o'hara August 30, 2012 at 03:04 PM
we have missed the lucky dill since it was forced out of clearwater....welcome to dunedin, many of us can't wait for you to reopen on the west side of pinellas!!!
Beth d. September 02, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I think you are referring to pickles plus.
patricia o'hara September 02, 2012 at 07:05 PM
you are so right !!!! know pickles plus wanted to come to dunedin....maybe someday, on the water !!
Jimmy p October 07, 2012 at 03:55 PM
More people, more pollution, more crowded and more noise. Sorry, what the hell happened to cities buying real estate and keeping them park lands? Or natural? All this progress will make it look like downtown anywhere in no time.

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