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    2nd hotel may rise at Oldsmar gateway

    The proposed project would be across from another hotel complex already under construction.

    By ED QUIOCO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


    OLDSMAR -- A Clearwater developer has proposed a hotel and two restaurants on a parcel viewed as an important piece of the city's downtown redevelopment efforts.

    Menna Development and Management has submitted preliminary plans to the city for a development that includes a 90-room hotel, a 6,400-square-foot restaurant and a 7,200-square-foot restaurant.

    The project's location, 6 acres on the southeast corner of Tampa Road and St. Petersburg Drive, is viewed as a gateway to the city's downtown area and could provide Oldsmar with another redevelopment anchor, said Nick Staszko, Oldsmar community development director.

    "The critical mass is finally beginning to be reached and I'm looking forward for things to happen pretty quickly in that area," Staszko said.

    As part of the project, Oldsmar officials have asked the Florida Department of Transportation to give the city a piece of DOT right of way at Tampa Road and St. Petersburg Drive. As proposed, it would be landscaped and used as an entrance to the redevelopment area.

    Staszko said the state seems willing to convey the right of way, which is about three-quarters of an acre, to the city in exchange for the city agreeing to keep the triangular lot as public open space. Preliminary plans call for a clock tower with a fountain, benches, a large gateway sign and landscaping.

    "Under that criteria, we can own it, landscape and signage can be put on it," Staszko said. "Trust me, it will be landscaped very nicely and it will be very beautiful."

    It has not yet been determined what hotel chain or which restaurants would move into the finished project, said Jim Woods, director of development of Menna Development and Management.

    When the city wrote a letter in January to the DOT about the right of way and attached a sketch of the proposal showing a hotel and two restaurants, Woods said he doubted that a hotel would go on the site. That, he said, was only one of several options.

    Woods said Tuesday that after considering the options, the company decided to stick with the plans for a hotel and two restaurants. The company also has not yet determined when construction could begin.

    "We hope that within the next 30 to 60 days it is cast in stone," he said.

    The proposed development would be across from Oldsmar Town Center, which is under construction on the southwest corner of St. Petersburg Drive and Tampa Road. The $20-million Oldsmar Town Center, which is being done by local developer Randy Mears, will resemble an outdoor mall and will have a Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, a restaurant and shops and offices.

    The 81-room hotel is expected to open in the spring and construction soon will start on a 22,500-square-foot office building that is about 70 percent leased, Mears said. Plans for the office building call for a Winner's Grill restaurant, an Entenmann's bakery, an interior design and furniture shop and a staffing company.

    "We expect that by the time we finish in the summer, it will be 100 percent leased," Mears said.

    Mears said the new project would be good for the city and Oldsmar Town Center.

    "Another hotel will be great and a few more restaurants will be great," Mears said. "I think (the new project) does nothing but benefit me and I certainly will do nothing but benefit them."

    City officials hope both projects will anchor the eastern end of State Street, which already is anchored on the western end by City Hall, council chambers and the library.

    Staszko said the city most likely can support two hotels, provided both cater to the city's growing industrial and commercial base, which continues to attract large companies. Oldsmar also has businesses -- the Tampa Bay Skating Academy, the Tampa Bay Downs and the Lockheed Martin facility on Tampa Road -- that already draw numerous out-of-town visitors who need hotel rooms.

    The city's redevelopment efforts got a boost more than a year ago when Mears announced plans for Oldsmar Town Center. City planners hoped Mears' announcement would spur other developments, like the new project being proposed, in the downtown area.

    "It's got to have the look and feel of entering a downtown retail area," Staszko said. "If it didn't look and feel that way, we would have truly lost an opportunity."

    - Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or quioco@sptimes.com.

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