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Gulf Coast Week

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  • | 6:00 p.m. November 6, 2008
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Gulf Coast Week


Developments approved

The Pinellas County Commission recently approved a marina project in Madiera Beach and a mixed-use project in Tarpon Springs.

The city of Madeira Beach plans to build a 126-slip municipal marina at the recreational complex on Rex Place, by City Hall. The proposed marina will include three piers and one long walkway parallel to the seawall, all with working piers to create 126 slips.

A.G. Armstrong plans to develop a 16.6-acre site into a mixed-use development at Alt. U.S. 19 and Meres Boulevard in Tarpon Springs.

It would include stores, offices, apartments, a senior-living facility and medical research offices associated with the adjacent Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital. The plan is to provide housing for hospital staff and families of patients at the hospital.

The Pinellas Trail is near the development and the hospital. With a change in land use and issues regarding nine acres of wetlands, this proposal required approval of an amendment to the countywide land-use plan.

Water restrictions added

Businesses and residents in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties are facing tighter water-use restrictions because of less rainfall and lower river levels.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board recently voted to add the following restrictions to the once-a-week lawn irrigation limit:

•Restricting hand watering and microirrigation for non-lawn-landscaping to between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Previously, there was no limit;

•Requesting that property owners postpone turf grass renovation such as replacing lawns until the drought abates;

•Reducing the time fountains and waterfalls may run from eight hours to four hours a day.


Sox stay put

Lee County commissioners voted to build a new mini-Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox baseball team by 2012, even though neither the cost nor the location of the Spring Training project has been determined.

The team, which currently plays in a stadium in Fort Myers, threatened to move its spring training operations to Sarasota unless Lee County built it a new stadium. The Lee County Commission voted to divert 20% of the tourism bed tax collections toward paying for bonds issued to build the stadium. Last year, the tax raised $21 million to pay for advertising, beach restoration and to pay off debt on the Lee County Sports Complex, which is home to the Minnesota Twins Spring Training facility.

The county will prepare a detailed financing plan by Jan. 15 for the new facility, which will seat 10,000 people. It will also have 10 corporate luxury suites and a hand-operated scoreboard. The Red Sox have agreed to sign a 30-year lease with the rent starting at $500,000 a year and increasing by 3% every five years. The team will have two separate, consecutive 10-year options to extend the lease.

Permits remain low

Lee County issued 30 permits for single-family homes in October, a 57% decline from the number of single-family permits issued in the same month a year ago. Although still low in number, there was a 73% increase in multi-family homes permitted to 52 in October compared with 30 in October 2007.

The value of permitted commercial buildings in October fell 75% to $3.8 million from the same month a year ago.

Road project finished

Three new lanes recently opened to traffic on a three-mile section of Vanderbilt Beach Road in Collier County, from Oakes Boulevard to Collier Boulevard.

The $38-million five-mile project began in February 2005 and it widens the road from two lanes to six lanes.


Project moves along

One of the largest shopping malls and mixed-used projects to be built on the Gulf Coast in several years, on the border of Sarasota and Manatee counties, has been granted another approval in the build-out process.

Preliminary work on the University Town Center kicked off earlier this year under a joint development project managed by Sarasota-based Benderson Co. and the Forbes Co., a national mall developer based in Southfield, Mich. The project is off University Parkway, just west of Interstate 75.

But the start of official construction had stalled while the Florida Department of Community Affairs checked to make sure the project, which is planned for than 1.2 million square feet of retail, office, residential and hotel space, is in compliance with Sarasota County regulations.

The request for community affairs officials to analyze the plans and the project was made by an affiliate of Westfield Corp., an Australian-based mall company that owns the Westfield Sarasota Square and Westfield Southgate shopping centers - widely seen as the Benderson-Forbes project's biggest competitor.

The next step for the University Town Center is for the developers to obtain building permits.

Company to make cuts

Bradenton-based boat manufacturer Chris-Craft Corp. plans on taking a long holiday break this year, the result of the slumping economy and the near-dead boat business.

The company, which has about 200 employees, said it will cease full production for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of 2008. It will still run a limited production line over that time. The move comes a few months after the company laid off about 80 employees, half locally and half from a North Carolina plant.

Company officials said that so far the production slowdown would be temporary, as it's not planning to lay off any employees or permanently shut down the facility. It plans on reexamining its operations early next year.


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