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Galleria may be the spark Oldsmar needs

Plans merge residential, office and retail space downtown. One possible hitch: the location and design of a nearby bus shelter.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published May 25, 2004

OLDSMAR - After years of trying, the city is closer to attracting retail shops and additional office space into its sparse downtown.

Clearwater developer JES Properties Inc. has a contract to buy vacant land at the corner of St. Petersburg Drive and State Street, the property's current owner, Scott Brauer, said Monday.

If the sale occurs, developers told City Council members last week, they would then build a three-story, 55,400-square-foot building that includes commercial, residential and retail space.

The developer has not yet submitted plans to the city. And Brauer, a Clearwater accountant, said the land deal may not be completed until midsummer.

But even the thought of a mixed-use development in the city center excites local leaders. They have dreamed of a downtown renaissance for years.

"That would be the first incursion of significant retail on that street," said Jerry Custin, a business assistance specialist with the Oldsmar/Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. Custin has been working with JES on the deal. "It has the potential to be a real catalyst."

Oldsmar resident John Bews developed two 6,000-square-foot, mixed-use buildings on State Street last year, the first redevelopment of the city's downtown in more than a decade. But that development, called Rampart Square, does not include a retail component. Currently, the buildings are half office space and half luxury apartments.

Still JES project manager Emerson Atkinson said Bews' initiative drew JES' attention.

"The fact that John Bews has stepped up to the plate has really sparked our interest and gotten us this far," Atkinson said. "Everything just looked marvelous."

Atkinson's group has similarly grand plans for the corner of St. Petersburg Drive and State Street. Tampa architect Francisco Semsch said the project, called Oldsmar Galleria, would have an urban/Main Street look.

"The whole corner of the town center will start having life," Semsch said. "People walking in retail stores. There's immediately a sense of: Slow down, look what's happening."

As proposed, plans include 16,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 10,000 square feet of office space on the second floor.

There also would be a mix of condominiums and two-story townhomes.

"It's an excellent project," City Manager Bruce Haddock said. "It's been one of the things we've tried to emphasize for years."

City Council members also seemed excited by the project, which would be opposite City Hall on State Street and near the proposed new library.

But Atkinson said the location and design of a nearby bus shelter could stop the deal before it even gets off the ground. City officials have approved and awarded a contract to install a bus shelter on St. Petersburg Drive near the corner with State Street.

The shelter's unremarkable design could detract from the project, Atkinson said. Council members said if JES wanted to overhaul the bus shelter, the company could pay for the improvements itself.

"You mean to tell me the bus stop, the way it looks, is going to stop your deal?" Mayor Jerry Beverland asked.

"Well, we have to take into consideration what the aesthetics of that might be relative to the project," Atkinson answered. Atkinson said his group, which is currently developing a 260-home lakefront homesite in Odessa, a $6-million office park in downtown Clearwater and a 13-home property in Tampa, will submit plans for the Oldsmar Galleria soon.

Brauer, who owns the site, would not say how much the land will cost.

"It seems like that area has come to maturity," said Brauer, who bought the land in 1990. "Hopefully they'll have a very successful project. I would think the city would want that project to occur. It would be an asset for both the tax base and the users."

[Last modified May 24, 2004, 22:37:12]


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