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Village officials seek more flexibility

At a meeting with neighbors and business owners, shopping center officials say they want to change zoning in the area to allow for different kinds of businesses.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 9, 2002


Old Hyde Park Village wants your support. And your trust.

Shopping center officials met this week with neighbors and businesses to drum up enthusiasm for a proposal to rezone part of the village to accommodate more uses.

The existing zoning is too narrow, they said, and limits options for filling vacant space, including the former Jacobson's. They wouldn't talk about prospective tenants but promised that any new businesses must complement the village.

Homeowners cautioned against tenants that don't fit with the neighborhood's historic feel. Some bristled at rumors of Publix claiming the theater spot on Swann Avenue. Others embraced the idea.

Everyone worried about the impact on property values.

"We don't want it to be another Harbour Island retail area that dies on the vine," said Steve Hudoba, a lawyer who lives in Hyde Park.

Village officials want to expand the list of tenants permitted in retail space along Swann. Zoning adopted in the mid-1980s restricts the Jacobson's site to a department store and the AMC 7 Theatres to a movie house.

"What we're trying to do is talk with users we couldn't talk to under the current zoning," said Robert Acker, development director for Madison Marquette, which owns the village.

Case in point: Panera Bread had its eye on the former Eckerd spot on Swann but backed out because of zoning constraints, he said.

During community meetings Monday and Tuesday, Acker said the proposed zoning would allow several types of tenants, among them a bank, hotel, spa, restaurant and grocery store.

Without the flexibility, the village can't stay competitive.

"I can't go to a tenant and say, 'You can't do your store here unless you're a theater,' " he said.

Home and business owners said they understood the dilemma. Still, many wanted to know more about the village's plans before supporting the rezoning. One man suggested the grocery store option be limited to gourmet markets.

The rezoning is scheduled to go to the Architectural Review Commission on Sept. 9 and to the City Council on Sept. 26.

If approved, the village would not have to go back for permission to bring in a specific tenant, said general manager Pat Westerhouse. However, the city would have to approve the parking, traffic and architectural plans.

About 125 people attended the community meetings in the old Jacobson's.

Some yearned for solid information of a plan.

After Acker showed up late to Tuesday's session, word spread that he had been stuck in traffic returning from Lakeland.

Lakeland? As in, Publix's headquarters?

Westerhouse later said the trip had nothing to do with the grocery chain.

Mary Esther Parker, a board member for Hyde Park Preservation Inc., said Publix would bring more traffic, delivery trucks and shopping carts.

"I think it would eventually do us in," said Parker, a 26-year resident. "We'll all end up with a grocery cart in our front yard."

Architect Geoffrey Meyer liked the idea of having a grocery store within walking distance of his house. To bolster his case, he brought photos of a red-bricked Publix in West Palm Beach, which was designed to blend with the area's residential and commercial development.

"I was hoping people didn't get nervous about this kind of concept," he said.

Several people in the audience said the broader zoning could pose problems if someone with a different vision takes over the village. Residents generally praised Madison Marquette for making the center an attractive, unique destination.

Franc Urso urged the owners to leave two parcels on Dakota Street as residential. The village is negotiating to buy seven lots behind the theaters, possibly for parking.

Urso, who lives across the street, doesn't want a high-traffic business like a Publix. His suggestion: condos and small shops.

"I could think of 100 other uses that would be good for there," he said.

Village officials refused to comment on Publix, but said a grocery store would be a good addition to the center.

Publix has also been unwilling to discuss any interest in the site.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

What zoning would allow

Old Hyde Park Village's rezoning request would allow for the following general commercial uses:

  • Auto rental business
  • Bank
  • Bank drive-through
  • Bed and breakfast hotel
  • Multifamily dwelling
  • Single-family dwelling
  • Catering shop
  • College
  • Day care and nursery facility
  • Drive-through window, excluding fast-food
  • Hotel
  • Movie theater
  • Retail sales, distilled beverages
  • Retail sales, lawn and garden
  • Retail sales, shopper's goods (grocery)
  • Retail sales, specialty goods
  • Storefront -- residential, office or commercial
  • Temporary film production
  • Office, business or professional
  • Office, medical
  • Parking, off-street or commercial
  • Pharmacy
  • Radio/television studio
  • Recreation facility
  • Restaurant

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