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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 25, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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Racing in St. Pete: Although some residents complained about the noise and the crowds, the economic impact won out.A gas-price break: A Tampa hotel hopes it has an answer for people thinking about canceling a summer vacation due to high gas prices: Offer gas stipends.Pinellas ballpark money: St. Petersburg may not be the only source of public money for the proposed $450 million downtown open-air, real grass ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays.Murdock Village help: Charlotte County commissioners have hired Orlando-based planning firm Tramell Webb PartnersBenderson builds roads: Sarasota-based Benderson Development is planning on spending more than $4 million in road improvements for the land surrounding its massive shopping mall projectPlanning vote delay: An effort to update the city of North Port's comprehensive plan has been delayed until at least June.Mining bills stall: Proposed Florida Senate bills that would have made it more difficult for local politicians to prohibit mining of economically critical limestone rock recently stalled in committees.Frontier takes off: Frontier Airlines, which provided Southwest Florida's only nonstop link to a Mountain-time-zone city, will end service between Fort Myers and Denver this summer.

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

Racing in St. Pete

Although some residents complained about the noise and the crowds, the economic impact won out.

St. Petersburg, Indy Racing League, American Le Mans Series, Andretti Green Promotions, Honda and Acura extended an agreement with the The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a downtown road race, for another five years.

The 2007 race drew an estimated 125,000 fans. The 2008 race featured two international races, televised on ABC and ESPN, airing in 200 countries worldwide. The race runs on a 1.8 mile, 14-turn circuit that winds along the downtown waterfront.

A gas-price break

A Tampa hotel hopes it has an answer for people thinking about canceling a summer vacation due to high gas prices: Offer gas stipends.

The InterContinental Tampa is one of the first on the Gulf Coast to jump on this national trend, recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. The hotel is offering a $40 "gas" rebate to guests who stay for two weekend nights from May 1 through Sept. 2. Rates start at $149 a night.

The rebate comes in the form of a $40 deduction off the total bill. Call (866) 915-1558 for more information.

Pinellas ballpark money

St. Petersburg may not be the only source of public money for the proposed $450 million downtown open-air, real grass ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The major league baseball team recently said it would also ask Pinellas County to kick in some funds. Both the city and county contributed toward building the Rays' current home, Tropicana Field.

The city is still waiting for the Rays to present a detailed financing plan for the park.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

Murdock Village help

Charlotte County commissioners have hired Orlando-based planning firm Tramell Webb Partners to help the county get out of its costly ownership of an 870-acre piece of undeveloped property in Port Charlotte.

The firm has been retained to work on planning, permitting and, ultimately, marketing and selling the property once proposed as Murdock Village, a massive mixed-use project that would potentially redefine the area's downtown. But a $72 million dollar deal to sell the land to West Palm Beach-based developer Kitson & Partners fell through late last year.

Since then, county commissioners have held several meetings to go over its options for the land, which has cost the county $105 million over two years, including interest payments. The county is now set to pay Tramell Webb Partners up to $20,000 a month over the next 18 months, fees that could be returned to the county in lieu of a 2% commission if and when the land is sold.

Benderson builds roads

Sarasota-based Benderson Development is planning on spending more than $4 million in road improvements for the land surrounding its massive shopping mall project in north Sarasota County, near University Parkway and Interstate 75.

One planned project, expected to cost about $2 million, involves the construction of a new lane and traffic signal to go with the northbound off-ramp of I-75; a second potential project, expected to cost another $2 million, is adding turn lanes and signals to the intersection at University and Honore Avenue; and a third project, building a bus transfer station on the grounds of the mall, could cost about $300,000.

The projects for the planned 1.9 million square foot shopping center, to be called University Town Center, have been approved by state agencies and are now weaving through the Sarasota County approval process. Roadwork could be competed by 2009, while parts of the mall could be built by 2010.

Planning vote delay

An effort to update the city of North Port's comprehensive plan has been delayed until at least June. North Port City Commissioners postponed a vote on the changes at an April 21 meeting, saying they wanted to make sure the city's Planning and Advisory Board had proper input into the process.

The changes to the plan include looking into the city's floodplain rules and certain proposed developments, including the Isles of Athena, a 5,000-acre plus project.

Public meetings on any proposed changes to the plan are scheduled for May and June, before the city plans to officially vote on the changes.

LEE/COLLIER

Mining bills stall

Proposed Florida Senate bills that would have made it more difficult for local politicians to prohibit mining of economically critical limestone rock recently stalled in committees.

Lee County officials have imposed a moratorium on the development of new mines in an 83,000-acre area in the southeast part of the county that has been approved for mining. The limestone rock is a critical ingredient for road and building construction and Lee County is one of a few areas in the state where it's available. The state has threatened to take away local authority over mining approvals because limestone is considered a state economic resource. Lee County's moratorium will expire later this year when consultants reveal the results of a comprehensive study of the southeastern part of the county.

Frontier takes off

Frontier Airlines, which provided Southwest Florida's only nonstop link to a Mountain-time-zone city, will end service between Fort Myers and Denver this summer.

The decision to stop nonstop flights between the two cities starting June 1 was made before Frontier filed for Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code recently, according to Victoria Moreland, an airport spokesperson.

Frontier plans to resume service this winter, Moreland says. Frontier officials couldn't be reached for comment.

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