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Developers picked to transform dump

If Pinellas okays negotiations, discussion will center on who will clean up the Toytown site.

By WILL VAN SANT, Times Staff Writer
Published January 18, 2008


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Pinellas County is a step closer to turning the abandoned 240-acre Toytown landfill site into an expanse of shops, homes and recreation space.

County leaders ranked Industrial Realty Group of California and Bear Creek Capital of Ohio over three other development outfits that submitted proposals for the dump.

Working together, the two companies plan to purchase a nearby privately owned landfill, bringing the total size of the project to about 300 acres.

The county would not charge the companies for the contaminated landfill, allowing the county to rid itself of a liability. In turn, the companies would build recreation space and affordable housing, create jobs and expand the tax base.

To rank the proposals, the county looked at the uses the developers proposed, the value of future tax payments, the number of jobs created and the ability of the applicants to complete the job, among other factors.

It's been reported that the $1-billion project would include 1.5-million of corporate office space, 800,000 square feet of retail, 15,000 parking spaces and a 50,000-square-foot community center. Then there's the tennis courts, soccer fields and skate, dog and water parks.

If the County Commission authorizes negotiations, there still are obstacles.

Interim County Administrator Fred Marquis said the first item up for discussion would be who is responsible for cleaning up Toytown, which closed in 1991. It is immediately south of Interstate 275 and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Marquis said the county's position will be that the developers should pay for cleaning up the landfill and getting regulatory approvals. Liability related to contamination also should rest with the developers, Marquis said.

"It's probably the largest undeveloped parcel that's available for development," in Pinellas County, Marquis said. "It's almost like a new town center."

Reaching a deal will take many months, said Economic Development Department director Mike Meidel. If no agreement is reached in six months, the county could turn to the second-ranked proposal, which involves the Sembler Co.

Though owned by the county, Toytown is in St. Petersburg's city limits. City leaders would have to approve any final project, as would state regulators.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or 445-4166.

[Last modified January 18, 2008, 00:40:01]


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