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Developer says Town Lake plan improved

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The Mediterranean Village in the Park’s builder says the next phase solves the first one’s space issues, but he is unsure when it will be finished.By AARON SHAROCKMAN Published September 14, 2004CLEARWATER – Development of a 100-unit townhome complex around Town Lake has moved exceedingly slow, despite hopes it would revitalize the downtown.And the 15 units that have been built since plans first surfaced in 1999 have been labeled cramped and stiff by residents and city officials.On Monday, the developer on the project said his second go-around would be better.Speaking to council members at a work session, Sarasota developer Bruce Balk said he has revamped the boundaries of the second phase of his Mediterranean Village in the Park project to include plants and shrubbery.He couldn’t say when work would begin. For its part, neither could the city.But Balk’s changes were welcomed anyway. City officials had worried Balk’s project, off Cleveland Street and east of Myrtle Avenue, would look like a crowded compound.“The street appeal of Phase 2 is a thousand percent improvement over Phase 1,” council member Hoyt Hamilton said.Mayor Brian Aungst agreed.Using new renderings to illustrate the changes, Balk said new plans will include a mix of concrete and open wrought-iron fencing to border the development of 49 townhomes along Cleveland Street. The plans also include a larger buffer between the buildings and the sidewalk, where Balk said he would plant palm trees and other native plants.Balk said he did not have enough room in the first phase to include the buffering. Those first 15 units border the sidewalk.“The current project is just a wall staring at you,” council member Carlen Petersen said.The city’s downtown redevelopment plans once hinged on the Mediterranean Village. But while Balk’s project has stalled from construction delays, logistical errors and environmental concerns, other developments have continued to move ahead.The new library is open. At least three major downtown residential developments are scheduled to break ground early next year. And other condominium and townhome proposals are making their way through City Hall.“It’s been five years and two days since I started talking to the city,” Balk said.In that time, he has only built the 15 townhomes east of Prospect Avenue.“Some things don’t go the way you want to,” Balk said. “Quite frankly, I want to proceed and get this done as quickly as I can.”Balk said once construction begins, it would take up to a year to complete Phase 2. The developer would then start the final phase of the project, 36 townhomes around the pond itself.The city said Monday it is preparing a final environmental report on the old Dimmitt Chevrolet property. Work can proceed once the Florida Department of Environmental Protection gives its go ahead.But no one said Monday when that might be.When finished, the 100 two-story townhomes will include a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, with several homes that would include roof gardens that overlook the pond. Homes in the gated community will sell for about $140,000 to $230,00.Under a 2002 development agreement with Balk, the city agreed to pay about $387,000 in various fees and to spend roughly $936,000 in state and federal money to clean up arsenic and other pollutants on the 5.4-acre tract.City officials have said the $16.4-million project should generate around $225,000 a year in various city taxes when it’s completed.— Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 445-4160 or asharockman@sptimes.comSource: http://www.sptimes.com/2004/09/14/Northpinellas/Developer_says_Town_L.shtml
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