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What's happening with New Port site?

A sales agent says he's seeing action on the Imperial Yacht Basin acreage andthat a buyer would probably do something different than what Ecogroup had in mind.

By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007


Justin Bodner uses the public Salty Sol Fleischman Boat Ramp in July. Ecogroup's plans for more boat slips were rejected in August.
photo
[KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times]
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GANDY 

New Port Tampa Bay was supposed to have been an oasis of waterfront condos, boutiques, restaurants and a marina overlooking the Imperial Yacht Basin.

Instead, a 52-acre lot of dirt, gravel and construction equipment sits idle. Two years after Ecogroup began work on the first two phases of the massive project, the development company ditched the idea and announced in late October that it was refunding buyers' down payments.

The sluggish housing market claimed yet another development with big dreams.

It's not completely dead, though, said John Gerlach, vice president of the real estate firm Colliers Arnold, which is handling the sale of the property.

"What we've found is that the market has responded very well," Gerlach said. "We're getting a lot of positive feedback."

Gerlach said it's too early to name those who have shown an interest in either purchasing the property or entering a joint venture with Ecogroup, and he couldn't describe the possibilities for the land. But he did hint that the result might be different from the artist's renderings presented to the public two years ago.

"In my opinion, there will definitely be some changes," he said.

Plenty of people, especially those who live in the area, are waiting to see what those changes will be.

Gandy Civic Association president Al Steenson, an outspoken critic of New Port's impact on the area's infrastructure, said he never wanted to see the project fail but would like to see more scaled-down and practical plans.

"I think the original concept was a good one," he said. "My complaint is that it's too much."

Gandy Bait & Tackle shop owner Bill Robinson stares at the failed New Port project every day. His store sits across the street. He'd love to see a public marina in its place but won't mind if the luxury condo and commercial plans are resurrected.

Ecogroup's plans to expand its private marina were rejected in August by the county's Marine Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, which said the boat slips would crowd the public Salty Sol Fleischman Boat Ramp. Many local fishermen and boaters think the area should be preserved for public use.

"I'm not against free enterprise," Robinson said. "I'm just afraid that one day, this whole strip is going to be bought out by developers and turned into a row of condo buildings."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or 226-3431.

[Last modified December 6, 2007, 07:39:25]


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