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Pair seeks rezoning to build homes

If two developers have their way, the former site of Jesse's Seafood House will be transformed into a $25-million community.

By MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002


SEMINOLE -- For years, diners at Jesse's Seafood House enjoyed waterfront views with their fish dinners. But the eatery closed in 1998 and the Victorian-style building named for the city's founding father was demolished two years later.

Now a pair of developers want to give some homeowners a bird's-eye view of Long Bayou by building a $25-million upscale community on the site. The project would feature more than 60 townhomes on the south side of Park Boulevard just east of Seminole Boulevard.

Johnson Ezell Corp., which owns the 8-acre property, wants the city to change the waterfront property's zoning designation from commercial general to residential planned development and the land use from commercial general to residential low medium.

The city's zoning board is scheduled to hear the request at a 7 p.m. meeting Sept. 16 at the Seminole Community Library.

"It's probably one of the most unique projects in the area," said Nicholas Bickey, who, along with his wife Mindy, wants to develop the property.

But the couple declined to talk about the details of the project -- such as the price of a townhome -- until it goes before the Land Development Review Board next month. The board's decision would be a recommendation. The City Council would make the final decision.

The Bickeys developed Plaza in the Park, a 10,000-square-foot office building they own at Park Boulevard and 131st Street. Mindy Bickey owns Village on the Lake at 556 Clearwater-Largo Road in Largo, a complex that features her business, Mindy's Gone to Pot, and other shops.

Last year a developer submitted plans to the city to construct an upscale office building on the Long Bayou property. The company wanted a variance so it could increase the building's height from 50 to 88 feet. But the developer pulled the request before the zoning board had a chance to hear the application.

Initially called Jesse's Landing, the 400-seat restaurant that stood at 10400 Park Blvd. opened in 1986. The 14,400-square-foot wooden building was named after Seminole pioneer Jesse Johnson and was owned by his descendants. The establishment was considered an homage to Johnson, dubbed the original "Mr. Seminole" in 1965 by the Chamber of Commerce.

The Bickeys said they would make every effort to preserve the fragile environment that abuts the property. They said they also planned to use environmentally safe products to build the community.

"We want to make sure it's a beautiful piece of property," Mindy Bickey said.

City Manager Frank Edmunds said the project had potential.

"The proposed residential use at first glance appears to be a better use of the property than a very intense commercial use which is now permitted," he said.

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