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Downtown Dunedin to see major changes with mixed-use project

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Tampa Bay Business Journal by Ken Salgat, Staff writer Date: Monday, June 21, 2004

DUNEDIN — Thomas George plans to spend more than $5 million to redevelop a half-block parking lot in downtown Dunedin.

George, president of Prelude Construction Co. Inc., bought the property in 2003 and is working with the city’s economic development office to design a mixed-use project that will add retail, parking and high-end condominiums.

“We’re looking forward to this project because really right now there exists a gap between our waterfront and our downtown,” said Bob Ironsmith, economic development director for the city. “We know George, and he’s had a very successful track record with other projects here in the past. We still need to hammer out the specifics, but we want that site developed and plan to work with him to approve a project that will benefit both his company and the city.”

George said the project still is in its infancy but that he expects to build a four-story building with restaurants and stores on the bottom level, parking in back and as many as 12 3,000-square-foot luxury condominiums on the top three levels.

“We would like to build 12 condominiums, at the very least eight, but we’ll have to see what the city officials allow,” said George.

What makes the project possible is the downtown redevelopment program, which focuses on establishing residences and increasing commercial activity. Other projects are under way, such as Prelude’s Wellington Place, and city officials are seeking more in-town residential development to bring people closer to the city center and expand the city’s economic base.

Wellington Place — 22 townhomes off Skinner Boulevard and Highland Avenue — was Prelude’s first residential development in Dunedin. George said potential renters helped sway his opinion and the company’s direction.

“Every time I’d show one of my commercial office spaces, people would ask me if they were residential and if they could purchase them,” said George. “It didn’t take long for me to realize there was significant interest in new residential downtown.”

Pushing development is downtown core zoning that allows for “zero” setbacks and a combination of residential, retail and commercial.

“Our development in Dunedin is substantial,” said Ironsmith. “It isn’t just talk. Most of our major projects have funding sources in place and an immediate start date. These aren’t things we’re hoping to do in three to four years. These projects are happening now.”

Pioneer Park, at the corner of Main Street and Douglas Avenue, and Station Square, at the corner of Scotland Street and Douglas Street, broke ground this week and are being built to help expand the city’s downtown sector, said Ironsmith.

“We’re going to make the park more open and traditional,” Ironsmith said. “We think this will pull people towards the expanded downtown area.”

Once there, people would be able to tour and shop at Station Square, a 38,000-square foot mixed-use development that will have a restaurant and four to five shops, said Ironsmith.

“The mixed-use environment is very conducive to the encouragement of both residential and nonresidential development, the former supplying workers and patrons and the latter providing jobs, products and services,” he said.

Areas north of downtown near State Road 580 also are garnering attention from the city.

The city has allocated almost $500,000 to implement a streetscaping program on both State Road 580 and on Alternate U.S. 19.

“That is our western gateway to the city, and right now it looks very shabby,” said Ironsmith. “When we’re finished with it, we believe it will set a precedent throughout the entire county.”


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