New townhomes in works

The city is trying to iron out a deal with the developer to provide affordable housing.

By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007

LARGO - Clearwater-Largo Road's journey to redevelopment has been bumpy, especially for those who planned projects along the corridor more than two years ago.

But at least one new project is moving forward.

Despite a few setbacks, attorneys Daniel Grieco and Steven Moore plan to build about 42 homes on 3.5 acres south of Ponce de Leon Boulevard.

"We're going ahead with it no matter what," Grieco said. "The reality is we bought the property to develop it."

Largo city commissioners this week authorized the staff to negotiate a development agreement with Grand Key Development LLC, the company formed by Grieco and Moore.

The agreement would address various issues beneficial to Grand Key and the city.

As it stands, Grand Key can build up to 10 units per acre on its property. An agreement would allow two additional units per acre if Grand Key agreed to provide affordable housing in 20 percent of its units. Features to make the area more pedestrian-friendly also will be addressed, officials say.

Grand Key plans to build two- and three-bedroom townhomes ranging from about 1,000 square feet to 1,600 square feet just south of the Belleair Place Apartments.

All of the homes will be moderately priced, with about eight or nine categorized as affordable, Grieco said.

The pair is teaming up with Philippe Beau of Beauland Homes, who is also working with them on a Dunedin project called Townhomes at Creek Park at 1909 Main St.

Each of the Largo homes will have its own personality, Beau said. Some will have a colonial style. Some will be reminiscent of 1930s or 1950s bungalows. Others will have a Key West flair.

Garages will adjoin most units. But to avoid a blocky wall-to-wall garage look, about 16 units will have detached garages, Beau said.

In March 2005, Grand Key bought several parcels, which include Bonnie's Bait & Tackle and a handful of homes. Grieco and Moore hoped to benefit from the city's efforts to revitalize the Clearwater-Largo Road area, Grieco said.

Largo first developed a plan for a 77-acre part of the Clearwater-Largo district more than a decade ago. Boosted by reduced impact fees and other city incentives, the area has seen its share of improvements. But the corridor still has pockets of blight and crime. In spring 2005, the city submitted a plan to expand the district to 288 acres.

In September 2005, however, Pinellas County Commissioners rejected the revised redevelopment plan, citing concerns about the lack of incentives for the creation of affordable housing and the lack of protections for mobile home residents.

City officials retooled the plan, but it took more than a year for the county and state to approve it.

Meanwhile, Grieco and Moore had hoped to work with the owner of the property south of them, the former Sunpiper Mobile Home Park, Grieco said.

But the park's latest owner, Key Largo Communities, which bought Sunpiper last year, was not interested, Grieco said.

"We've reached out to them a little bit to do something cooperative and suggest that they maybe want to work with the city, but maybe they're beyond that," Grieco said.

After a code enforcement crackdown last year, Key Largo Communities changed the Sunpiper park's name to "No Go Largo" in protest and went to court to challenge the 2005 annexation of its property. That case is still pending.

In the meantime, Largo wrapped up landscaping improvements along the road.

The delay in the approval of the redevelopment plan was not as significant as the crash in the real estate market, Grieco said. And in the long run, the delays in the plan may have been a blessing, he said, because he and Moore didn't dive into their project during the initial stages of the downturn.

"It may have worked out better for us," he said.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com