Gulf Coast Week
Pinellas home construction
To promote more single-family home construction, Pinellas County has been buying commercial properties and rezoning them to attract builders.
Recently, the county's Department of Community Development requested a zoning change on six-tenths of an acre on the corner of Gooden Crossing and Palm Avenue. A smaller parcel on the north side of Gooden Crossing is the subject of a similar zoning change request.
The county bought this vacant site, on which a dry cleaning business formerly operated, in March 2006. The Community Development Department demolished the building.
SRI breaks ground
SRI International recently broke ground on its new maritime research and development facility at the Port of St. Petersburg's Bayboro Harbor Marine Science district.
The 40,000-square-foot building will house laboratory space for developing advanced marine sensors and port security technologies, a state-of-the-art marine operations and deployment shop, and specialized classroom, meeting and office space to support training, conference and daily operations.
SRI has 70 employees with expectations to grow to more than 100 in the next three years. In addition, the building site has been designated to accommodate a future expansion of up to 100,000 square-feet.
Advanced Medical Disposal Inc. recently opened operations in Largo serving healthcare, chemical and pharmaceutical companies throughout the Tampa Bay region.
Advanced Medical plans to grow to a staff of 20 during the next few years. The firm bought an existing 14,000-square-foot industrial warehouse building to house its operations.
The Pinellas County Economic Development Department helped it locate property, examine industry data and anticipate regulatory requirements.
Next up: Baltimore
A week after officially losing the Boston Red Sox spring training sweepstakes, some Sarasota County officials and tourism executives are switching focus to a rival of the Red Sox: the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles, like the Red Sox, are seeking a new or at least an improved spring training home. And the Orioles have a connection to Sarasota in that the team has a minor league training facility at the city's Twin Lakes Park. Meanwhile, Sarasota officials have been seeking a team to move its spring training to the city ever since the Cincinnati Reds announced they would be moving from Sarasota to Goodyear, Az. in 2010.
The Orioles are seeking a $65 million deal with the city that would provide a new 8,000-seat stadium next to Ed Smith stadium, where the Reds play.
But as with the Red Sox, funding details are the looming factor that could turn the proposal either way. Some of the money could come from a combination of state grants, taxes and other city and county funds. But to reach the full $65 million, Sarasota County commissioners would likely have to pass a one-percentage point increase in the local tourism tax.
FPL plans rate cut
Florida Power & Light filed proposals with the Florida Public Service Commission that would lower the typical residential customer bill in 2009 by 1.4%.
The typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour residential customer bill is now $111.12. Effective Jan. 6, this customer bill will decline to $109.55. The reduction is a reflection of the drop in fuel prices.
However, in 2010, the utility plans to ask for a 6% to 9% increase, which would result in a typical residential-customer bill of $115 to $118. FPL officials said that those rates could increase or decrease depending on the price of fuel.
FPL officials cite research by industry organizations that say FPL bills are 13% lower than the average electric bill in Florida and 17% below the national average.
Direct Air's new service
Direct Air, a low-cost carrier based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., plans to start nonstop service from Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda to Worcester, Mass.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; Allentown, Penn.; Niagara Falls, N.Y., Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Myrtle Beach on Nov. 22.
The airline plans to lease Airbus aircraft from Virgin America, who will crew the planes. Direct Air offered special fares for $79 for 79 hours in September.
Earlier this year, Skybus, another low-cost airline, abandoned service to Punta Gorda when high fuel prices forced it to cease operations. It was the only commercial passenger jet service to Charlotte County.
Pepper Ranch conserved
Collier County plans to buy Pepper Ranch in eastern Collier County for $33.3 million. The land measures 2,512 acres.
The ranch consists of 10 parcels in eastern Collier County. The price was based on the average of two independent real-estate appraisals. The land is considered environmentally sensitive and habitat for endangered species such as the Florida panther.
Proscenium moves along
The Proscenium, a supersized mixed-use project for an underdeveloped area just north of downtown Sarasota, recently won unanimous approval from the Sarasota City commission.
"It has been a lot of hard work to get here," says Gary Moyer, whose Lions Gate Development is the project's lead developer. "To get a 5-0 vote is pretty significant."
The $1.25 billion project, spread over six acres, is planned as a mix of shops, offices, a hotel, a theater and some condos. The Waldorf-Astoria brand, part of Hilton Hotels Corp., has signed on to run the hotel portion. Moyer says more leasing and partnership announcements are forthcoming.
The next step for the project is for Moyer and his partners to close on the $74 million in land deals that make up the bulk of the project site. An October deadline for those closings was extended to late December, Moyer says, to allow time for the city approval.