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Gulf Coast Week: Dec. 3 - Dec. 9

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  • | 12:34 p.m. December 3, 2010
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USF-SP to build center

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg said it is proceeding with plans to build a $20 million student center and dormitory after declining financial help from the city. Construction is set to start in March, with the cost covered by higher student fees.

The proposed 81,000-square-foot building will include nearly 200 beds, a food court and meeting rooms. USF-SP officials expect the facility to increase the number of students living on campus to about 10% of its current full-time enrollment of 6,000.

St. Petersburg leaders offered USF-SP bond money tied to last year's $787 billion federal stimulus package, but the university decided it would be cheaper to issue its own bonds for the student center.

New River obtains bonds

Avalon Park Group exchanged more than $20 million in Community Development District bonds on New River, an 1,800-acre master planned community along State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel. The deal took more than two years to complete and is expected to reboot the long-planned Pasco County project.

Lot sales are expected to start early next year and the developer is negotiating with local and national homebuilders. Development of 365 lots and an amenity center is finished, and a 700,000-square-foot retail town center is planned.

New River will include 4,800 residential units with a mix of single and multi-family homes.

Grand Prix comes with spring

Tickets went on sale Dec. 1 for the 2011 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, set for March 25-27.

In its seventh year, the Honda Grand Prix is run on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit in downtown St. Petersburg. The course encompasses Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey Theatre, the new Salvador Dali Museum and runways at Albert Whitted Airport.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $110. A “paddock pass” is included with three-day reserved seats bought before Dec. 31.


Company shutters facility

Fiberglass powerboat manufacturer Donzi Marine recently announced plans to close its Manatee County plant and transfer the work to North Carolina.

The facility's 40 employees were told about the closure in mid-November. Company officials say they plan to shut down the facility by the end of 2010.

Donzi has been in a facility in the county since 1995, when it moved from Dade County with more than 250 employees. But the company shrunk its employee base through each economic downturn, beginning in 2000.

Donzi's parent company manufactures two other boat lines in North Carolina, a state that has lured boat builders nationwide with multiple incentive packages. Wellcraft Maine and Chris-Craft Corp. are among the local boat manufacturers that moved work to that state in the last few years.

City supports developer

North Port city commissioners unanimously approved a proposal to waive fees for a developer with plans to build a low-income senior housing project in the city.

The developer, Palm Beach Gardens-based Creative Choice, hopes to break ground in 2012 on the $14 million project. The development currently calls for 92 units on property the company owns on U.S. 41 in North Port.

In supporting the project, city commissioners waived $75,000 in fees — a minor portion of what could be $1 million the developer will be required to pay in fees and costs. The developer also seeks federal funds to support the project.

Home prices fall

The median price for a home sold in October in the Sarasota-Bradenton market dropped to a two-year low, according to a report from Florida Realtors.

The median price, $141,800, was slightly lower than the median price of $144,000 in February 2009. The October figure was also off 6% from September and 8% from October 2009.

Sales in the Sarasota-Bradenton market, meanwhile, declined 18% in October, according to Florida Realtors, a statewide organization.


Chico's adds veteran

Veteran retail executive Stephen Watson recently joined the board of directors of Chico's FAS, the Fort Myers-based women's retailer.

From 1973 to 1996, Watson held various positions with Dayton Hudson Corp., including chairman and CEO of Dayton Hudson Department Stores and president of Dayton Hudson Corp.

From 1997 until his retirement in 2002, Watson was president and CEO of Gander Mountain Co., a privately held outdoor retailer. Watson is currently a director of Regis Corp. and Kohl's Corp.

Chico's operates 1,154 stores across the U.S. under the Chico's, White House | Black Market and Soma Intimates brands.

HBK adds principals

Fort Myers accountants Diane Stramel and J. Michael Sowers joined Ohio-based accounting firm Hill, Barth & King as principals after merging their firm.

In addition, five employees of the Fort Myers-based Gilbert, Wallace, Stewart, Stramel and Sowers P.A. joined HBK as part of a merger of the two companies.

GWSSS, which had been in business in Fort Myers since 1948, focused on construction and health care industries as well as family-owned businesses and homeowners associations.

HBK is the 71st largest accounting firm in the U.S. with 280 employees in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Kraft adds Manhattan

Tulsa, Okla.-based Manhattan Construction Group has changed the name of its Florida subsidiary to Manhattan Kraft Construction.

Manhattan, controlled by the Rooney family, acquired a majority stake in Naples-based Kraft Construction Co. in 2008, one of the largest Gulf Coast-based commercial builders. The management and organization of the company is unaffected by the name change.

Recent Kraft construction projects included an academic building at Florida Gulf Coast University and downtown Fort Myers' utility and streetscape project, which won the “project of the year” award from the Florida chapter of the American Public Works Association.



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