Archives for February 2009

Penny For Pinellas Could Fund City Marina

The slow economy is affecting the downtown boat slips to be built this year. Expensive hobbies like boating are among the first things people cut during tough times. Originally the city expected to allot the slips by lottery because of high demand, but only 2 people have signed up for slips.

Originally, the $128 million project was intended to be self-supporting, with monthly slip rents of approximately $15.50 per foot of boat length covering the operating costs and debt service. But boaters in today’s economy are not willing to pay such rents. City officials found that out when they recently raised the slip rent for Clearwater residents at the Clearwater Beach municipal marina from $6.94 to $9.13 per foot, with the intention of raising it to $15.50 by 2011. The marina lost several tenants, who weren’t willing to pay more than $9.

Councilman Paul Gibson suggested keeping the price at $9.13 for the foreseeable future instead of raising it to $15.50. Mayor Frank Hibbard said that he doesn’t have a problem with reducing the projected slip rent, but he doesn’t know what the right price is, and that even a marina that initially runs in the red would be good for the city.

The city’s finance director projected that cancelling the marina project would cost the city more than $2.3 million in money already spent or committed. And, it would not only cause the city to lose a $1.2 million grant but might also hurt the city’s reputation for reliability, thereby hurting its chances of getting future grants.

With the marina project going forward with little imminent chance of becoming self-supporting, Gibson suggested using Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue to build it. He said he would prioritize it and move it ahead of other projects. The city finance director said that there isn’t enough Penny money available, but the money could be borrowed from the city’s Central Insurance Fund until Penny funds become available. A public hearing will be required before Penny funds can be used for the project.

New Development For Gandy

Tortuga Pointe Apartments will be a 16.4-acre, $42 million development that borders Tampa Bay wetlands on Gandy Blvd. The Pointe will include 295 luxury units featuring “old coastal Florida” architecture. Preliminary plans submitted to the city show an urban-inspired neighborhood with 3 buildings. At least 2 would be residential buildings, connected by a clubhouse and pool, with retail businesses on the ground floors. Lighted sidewalks lead out to Gandy Boulevard, with 730 parking spaces lining the grounds. Tortuga Pointe is scheduled to open in mid 2010.

Torguga Pointe joins other new gated developments including Brighton Bay, Grande Verandah, Mangrove Cay and Vantage Point. New shopping complexes are completed or under way and neighboring Derby Lane recently added a casino and concerts to its offerings.

Tampa Hard Rock Plans Major Expansion

In this tough economy, gambling seems to be doing well. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, plans to spend $600- to $800-million on the expansion. Plans include a new 22 story hotel tower with up to 1,000 rooms, 3 times the current capacity. Plans also call for 50,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, 6 restaurants, new parking garage, more gambling space, 3 new pools and a 1,500 to 2,000 seat music venue. Work is scheduled to begin at the end of the year.

Bay Pines Mobile Home Park Up For Sale Again

The former Bay Pines Mobile Home Park, across from the VA hospital is for sale again. In May 2006 John Loder bought the 59 acre park in a controversial sale that displaced hundreds of elderly residents who thought that was where they would live the rest of their days.
By the end of 2006 all the residents were gone and it was razed. Today, there is still nothing but dirt and trees. The promise of luxury condos disappeared in the housing bubble, and the property is for sale again.

Loder paid $38.5 million for the property. Today it’s listed for $19 million. The residential zoning allows for 15 units per acre. Possible rezoning of part of it could allow for a hotel, medical office and retail.