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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 15, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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TAMPA BAYNew Tampa bridgeState concurrency laws and mayoral support may breath new life into a scrapped $22 million bridge project over Interstate 75 in New Tampa.Scientology's downtown landAlready a significant presence in downtown Clearwater, the Church of Scientology has bought a five waterfront acres for future development.SARASOTA/MANATEEMall expansion delayedOne of the largest outlet malls in Manatee County has put off expansion plans due to a dispute over costs to expand the main road leading to the center. Construction project beginsConstruction on a $20 million office and retail development in eastern Manatee County is scheduled to begin later this month.LEE/COLLIERMoran joins investment firmJohn Moran, former president and chief executive of Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast, has joined Fort Myers-based CPA Financial Connections.Hoteliers show mixed JuneHalf the hoteliers in Lee County reported their June occupancies were better or the same than June 2007, but half said it was worse than the same month a year ago.Naples personal income risesThe Naples-Marco Island area's per-capita personal income rose to $61,788 in 2007, the second highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

New Tampa bridge

State concurrency laws and mayoral support may breath new life into a scrapped $22 million bridge project over Interstate 75 in New Tampa.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is considering the bridge after saying she would not build it without the proposed east-west toll road that would have linked Tampa Palms to I-275.

Tampa City Councilman Joseph Caetano said the mayor told him she could support the project if Hillsborough widens Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The bridge would link Tampa Palms to neighborhoods and shopping centers north of the I-75 interchange so motorists can move around without having to use Bruce B. Downs. Many homeowners worry that commuters would use the bridge as a cut-through.

But the project is part of a road network required under state concurrency laws that allowed the city to approve several New Tampa developments, such as West Meadows and Arbor Greene. It also was named in annexation agreements for K-Bar Ranch and Grand Hampton, among others.

Scientology's downtown land

Already a significant presence in downtown Clearwater, the Church of Scientology has bought a five waterfront acres for future development.

The church paid $10 million for the property along North Fort Harrison Avenue but has no plans for it, says church spokeswoman Pat Harney. It could become part of the church's expansion of the Sandcastle complex in front of Clearwater Harbor.

Scientology, which has its spiritual headquarters in downtown Clearwater's Fort Harrison Hotel, now owns nearly 30 properties in Clearwater, most of them in the downtown area.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

Mall expansion delayed

One of the largest outlet malls in Manatee County has put off expansion plans due to a dispute over costs to expand the main road leading to the center.

Prime Retail, which operates Prime Retail Ellenton in North Manatee County, has indefinitely suspended a $35-million expansion plan. The project was supposed to include the addition of several new stores, including Neiman Marcus Last Call.

But talks over what entities would pay for widening 60th Avenue, which is the main entrance to the mall, clogged the potential project. The mall company had been in discussions with several landowners and businesses in the area, as well as county officials, but no agreement could be reached as to who would pay for the improvements.

Construction project begins

Construction on a $20 million office and retail development in eastern Manatee County is scheduled to begin later this month. The project, to be called the Morgan Johnson Commerce Park, will include the new headquarters for the local office of the U.S. Social Security Administration, in addition to space for a bank and a restaurant.

The project's main tenant, the Social Security office, signed a 10-year lease for 12,500 square feet. It's moving there from a smaller office it currently occupies downtown Bradenton.

The commerce park is being built on State Road 64, about five miles east of downtown Bradenton. The first phase of the development, including the social security office, is projected to be ready for occupancy by June. The final project could be completed in two years.

LEE/COLLIER

Moran joins investment firm

John Moran, former president and chief executive of Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast, has joined Fort Myers-based CPA Financial Connections.

Under Moran's tenure, Cape Coral-based Riverside grew from $70 million to $630 million in assets. However, it was hit hard by the residential real estate downturn and Moran resigned earlier this year. The bank, which has branches from Bradenton to Golden Gate, reported a $7.6-million net loss in the first quarter.

CPA Financial Connections is a family owned investment company that operates two alternative investment funds.

Hoteliers show mixed June

Half the hoteliers in Lee County reported their June occupancies were better or the same than June 2007, but half said it was worse than the same month a year ago.

It was a similar report on lodging revenues in June, with 46% reporting it was better or the same and 54% saying it was worse than June 2007.

The average occupancy rate for June at Lee County hotels and motels was 52% in June. The average daily rate was $125.26 and the revenue per available room was $65.19, according to Davidson Peterson Associates for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Visitors spent more than $200 million in Lee County in June. Over half the visitors to the area flew (59%) while another 42% drove to Lee County.

Naples personal income rises

The Naples-Marco Island area's per-capita personal income rose to $61,788 in 2007, the second highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Naples area's per-capita income grew 7.6% in 2007.

By contrast, the neighboring Cape Coral-Fort Myers' per-capita income rose to $40,935, a 2% annual increase and one of the top-ten slowest growing areas in the country on a per-capita basis.

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