tampabay.com

Hilltop Project looks to create 'focal point'

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 9, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - A multistory commercial and residential project that would redefine the eastern end of downtown Brooksville will get its first airing before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission tonight.

The proposed Hilltop Project would bring the kind of mixed land use that city officials have been promoting as a way to redevelop some of the less attractive areas near downtown.

On a 3-acre parcel along the north side of N Broad Street and east of E Jefferson Street, Hilltop Partners LLC proposes a 44, 475-square-foot, three-story building with retail and commercial space and 12 residential condominiums, as well as an 8, 000-square-foot, two-story building housing office space.

Currently, a service station and office complex are on the site, which is divided by Saxon Avenue.

On the smaller parcel, on the south side of N Broad Street, a 7, 000-square-foot, one-story building is proposed that would include retail and commercial space. A vacant service station/convenience store is on that site now.

The properties are both zoned commercial, but Hilltop Partners is seeking a special exception use from the planning and zoning board that would allow the mixed-use project.

Among the partners in the development is Tommy Bronson, a retired mining executive who has been involved in other major projects in the area. Brooksville community development director Bill Geiger said a downtown redevelopment project of this nature has been a dream of Bronson's for some time.

Other approvals would be needed in the coming months to make the project a reality. Among other things, the portion of Saxon that bisects the larger parcel would have to be vacated. Also needed would be plat approval and other permitting through the state Department of Transportation and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Geiger said.

The project "epitomizes the casual grace of the city, " according to the narrative submitted to planning officials.

"This project will serve as an aesthetically pleasing focal point of the eastern edge of downtown Brooksville, spurring further redevelopment of the area."

The developer also pitches the project as a way to cure some of downtown Brooksville's deficiencies, such as "blight, minimal shade for pedestrians and insufficient sidewalks."

"The Hilltop Project addresses and corrects these deficiencies in a manner consistent with the heritage and charm of downtown. In keeping with the goals and spirit of the plan, the Hilltop Project will promote a pleasant walkable environment for visitors and residents, " according to the developer.

The project "would be unique unto itself as far as the scope, " Geiger said. "There are no other multistory buildings on top of that hill, " which includes the May-Stringer Heritage Museum.

Geiger said that the city has long been looking to bring mixed-use projects into the core of Brooksville.

"They are a good redevelopment and revitalization tool, " he said. "This would be complimentary to that."

The area proposed for the development is also within a designated "enterprise zone, " which affords the owner special tax incentives.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or 352 754-6117.

Fast fact

Hearing today

The special exception usage request for the proposed Hilltop Project will be heard by the Brooksville Planning and Zoning Commission at 6:30 p.m. today. The meeting will be in City Council chambers at City Hall, 201 N Howell Ave.