As downtown construction goes on, a developer says encouraging more pedestrians, not cars, will help small businesses thrive.
By MEGAN SCOTT
Published July 28, 2003
OLDSMAR - No two ways about it: you need a car in Oldsmar.
The city that was named after the inventor of the Oldsmobile has a movie theater, restaurants, Wal-Mart, a couple of hotels, and city officials are working to rebuild downtown.
Development in the city of 13,000 goes on. But pedestrian friendly, Oldsmar is not.
That's one reason developers with MTN Tampa Road Partners say they are paying close attention to the walkways in and around its project on Tampa Road. The proposed project consists of a Hilton brand hotel, offices and three restaurants, one of them a breakfast/light lunch facility.
"One of the characteristics is outdoor seating," said Todd Pressman, a land use consultant on the project. "We wind the driveway so we get outdoor seating on both sides."
The front of the 8-acre parcel faces Tampa Road. The hotel, with 84 rooms on five floors, will be in the rear bordering Clarendon Street. The City Council recently approved vacating Mystic Street, which now connects Tampa Road and Clarendon Street, for the project. Four buildings will have about 10,580 square feet of offices. The restaurants will take up about 38,000 square feet in two buildings.
"It's like two strip centers, actually, with a driveway coming through the middle," Pressman said. "We really hope it to be a destination."
Developers hope the pedestrian access encourages visitors to walk to the restaurants from the Hilton and two other new hotels nearby in the Oldsmar Town Center.
That aspect is important, said Jerry Custin, business assistance specialist for the Oldsmar/Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. Foot traffic is needed in order to support the plan to redevelop downtown Oldsmar, he said.
City officials envision an Old Florida-style downtown with mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, and small businesses such as dentists' or doctors' offices. But businesses in that area will not be able to rely on the traffic from the busy highway.
"The city is thinking about the importance of vitalizing that walking," Custin said. "We're pleased to see the developer has considered that."
The Hilton brand hotel would be the latest addition to a hotel miniboom that began in May 2001 when the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites opened.
Menna Development and Management opened a 100-room Courtyard by Marriott just to the west of MTN's site earlier this year. The company has submitted plans to build a fourth hotel, a Residence Inn, next to the Marriott. Construction is scheduled to begin in November.
"Seeing the success of the Courtyard since it has opened, we're positive that this Residence Inn will be a nice fit for Oldsmar and us as a business entity," said Reggie Termulo, director of development for Menna. "It's a different market niche. Extended stay clientele versus someone in the Courtyard who will be only staying one or two days."
The four-story Residence Inn will include 78 suites, single-efficiency, one, and two bedrooms. It includes a fitness room, lounge area and outdoor basketball and tennis courts.
Menna also plans to construct an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar that Termulo hopes is up and running before the groundbreaking of the Residence Inn.
Termulo said Menna Development and Management was attracted to the city's growth and location. Oldsmar is about equal distance from St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport and Tampa International Airport. And Tampa Road is a gateway for Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Pressman said the MTN developers probably will start construction in a few months, and the project will take nine to 13 months to complete. Paul Simone, the developer of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites across St. Petersburg Drive, will build the Hilton.
The growth is exciting to Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland, who sees the hotels as good for the city's tax base.
"They wouldn't build these hotels if they didn't think they were going to make money off them," Beverland said. "I think it's a smart move on their part. They're going to bring money to the city of Oldsmar."