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Business Observer Thursday, May 15, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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Tampa water vision: Tampa's growth northward and increasing demand for water has city leaders thinking about using reclaimed waterApartment tower proposed: Although the condominium market has taken a hit, Crosland, a Charlotte, N.C. developer, thinks a 26-story apartment tower can work in downtown Tampa.Rail supporters fight on: A $649 million deal with CSX Transportation to create a commuter rail network in Florida has collapseProject delayed again: More than 25 acres of undeveloped waterfront property in downtown Bradenton is undergoing a foreclosure sale later this month, the latest problems facing what was supposed to be a mixed-use project with the potential to reshape the cityMills sells insurance firm: Former Sarasota County Commissioner David Mills sold his independent locally based insurance brokerage to Insurance & Benefits Consultants, a subsidiary of a publicly traded Southfield, Mich.-based firm.Project expansion denied: Citing congestion concerns, Sarasota County Commissioners voted down a major expansion for Thomas Ranch, a large-scale mixed-use project in the southern edge of the county.Naples mandates recycling: The Naples City Council on May 7 voted to require businesses to recycle. The vote was 6-to-1 in favor, with Teresa Heitmann dissenting.Business program incubating: Economic development groups from Sarasota, Charlotte, Glades, Lee, Hendry and Collier counties are working to create a small-business

Gulf Coast WeekTAMPA BAYTampa water visionTampa's growth northward and increasing demand for water has city leaders thinking about using reclaimed water. Mayor Pam Iorio said she wants to consider building a wastewater treatment plant in New Tampa to get reclaimed water to the city's northern limits.Iorio would also like to lower the cost of reclaimed water for customers as a way to encourage residents to connect to the system. Reclaimed water is treated wastewater that is not drinkable but can be used to irrigate lawns.Apartment tower proposedAlthough the condominium market has taken a hit, Crosland, a Charlotte, N.C. developer, thinks a 26-story apartment tower can work in downtown Tampa.The 400-unit building would cover a 1.2-acre area bounded by North Franklin, Tampa and Tyler streets.According to paperwork filed at Tampa City Hall, the building could be about 320 feet tall and would include about 16,000 square feet of retail space. Parking would be in an adjacent seven-story garage.The city council is scheduled to consider rezoning the property at its July 31 meeting. Crosland wants to start construction by early 2009.Rail supporters fight onA $649 million deal with CSX Transportation to create a commuter rail network in Florida has collapsed, but it hasn't stopped Gulf Coast supporters from finding a new potential partner: Amtrak.State Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, says he has already talked to Amtrak, which provides commuter rail in other parts of the country.Federal law gives Amtrak the right to use existing freight tracks. It runs trains on CSX lines to Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando and Miami.SARASOTA/MANATEEProject delayed again More than 25 acres of undeveloped waterfront property in downtown Bradenton is undergoing a foreclosure sale later this month, the latest problems facing what was supposed to be a mixed-use project with the potential to reshape the city. Wells Fargo, the bank that filed the foreclosure notice, is expected to be one of the only bidders on the property. The bank recently received a one-year extension from city officials on the project, with the hope of selling the land and zoning rights to another developer. St. Petersburg entrepreneur Frank Maggio was the initial developer behind the project, known as Riviera Southshore. Initial plans called for 575 residences and 45,000 square feet of retail space to be built on the banks of the Manatee River near the Manatee County Courthouse. But the Bradenton City Council voted down the project in 2006 after hearing complaints from some residents that multiple 19-story buildings wouldn't mesh with the area. It was revived last year when Maggio and the city reached a compromise that allowed shorter buildings, but more density. Construction never started on the development though, and no units were ever sold. Maggio's First Dartmouth Homes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last year.Mills sells insurance firmFormer Sarasota County Commissioner David Mills sold his independent locally based insurance brokerage to Insurance & Benefits Consultants, a subsidiary of a publicly traded Southfield, Mich.-based firm. Neither Mills nor the parent company, Meadowbrook Insurance, disclosed the sale price of the deal. Mills says he began speaking with IBC officials about a year ago and grew into the idea of merging over the last few months. IBC has offices in Bradenton, Sarasota, Tampa and Venice; Meadowbrook is traded on the NYSE. Mills had run his own firm, David R. Mills Insurance, for 16 years - the same amount of time he served as a county commissioner. After leaving the commission in 2006, Mills, a Republican, ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state House of Representatives.Mills has since focused his time on the insurance brokerage and says he's not planning any more political moves. Says Mills: "I'm very happy not being involved."Project expansion deniedCiting congestion concerns, Sarasota County Commissioners voted down a major expansion for Thomas Ranch, a large-scale mixed-use project in the southern edge of the county.The project, to be built on more than 7,000 acres in and around North Port, is still big, including a planned 15,000 homes and more than three million square feet of office, retail and commercial space. But the developer, Stan Thomas of suburban Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises, was seeking an expansion of an additional 2,850 acres of county and North Port land to build at least 5,000 more homes. In an effort to secure approval of the expansion, Thomas had offered to pay for more than $150 million in road and infrastructure improvements, through loans to the county and other payments. But commissioners still turned down the expansion by a 3-2 vote after a May 13 meeting. Several neighborhood groups had voiced concern over the size of the project, including the Sarasota-based Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA).LEE/COLLIERNaples mandates recyclingThe Naples City Council on May 7 voted to require businesses to recycle. The vote was 6-to-1 in favor, with Teresa Heitmann dissenting.Business owners will be responsible for their own recycling because the city will not provide the service. The city joins Collier County in mandating recycling for non-residential property owners.Business program incubatingEconomic development groups from Sarasota, Charlotte, Glades, Lee, Hendry and Collier counties are working to create a small-business incubator program via the Internet.A Web site has been established to get the program started at www.economicdevelopmentfoundation.org. It contains free information on how to start a business in Southwest Florida and where to find a business coach.Other participants in the project include Hodges University, Ave Maria University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Edison College, the Gulf Coast Venture Forum and the Southwest Florida Regional Business Alliance.

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