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    12 shaded acres may give way to homes

    It's one of the last significant undeveloped parcels in the city and may become the site of a 129-unit subdivision.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Just off Kings Highway and Sunset Point Road lie 12 acres where gnarled oak trees shade one of the last large, privately owned undeveloped parcels in the city.

    Now three local residents are considering developing the land into a 129-unit subdivision of townhomes and single-family homes, while preserving some large oaks to add character.

    "It's actually, as far as we can tell, the last undeveloped land like this in Clearwater," said Bud Reichel, a retired housing project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and one of the partners in the Clearwater Village project. "Environmentally, it's an ideal location. We like the shade trees. We thought it would be really nice for a community."

    Some 20 years ago, Reichel said, the whole Kings Highway area looked as natural and undeveloped as the 12-acre tract looks today. He remembers camping there once with a cousin's Boy Scout troop.

    Representatives of Clearwater Village, L.C., have had early discussions with the city's planning department about the project.

    They discussed things like the minimum width for new streets, requirements for fire hydrants and working around trees on the property. The project also would require the city to vacate some unpaved rights of way that have never been developed across the land. A city arborist was going to look at the large oaks there.

    Reichel said the meetings so far have been preliminary but helpful.

    He and his partners, Ido Fischler and Dr. George Malnati, are planning to meet again with city officials in the next three months to talk about their plans. Then they'll decide whether to go forward based on the local real estate market and economy.

    The alternative would be to hold onto the land for a few years.

    The large tract of undeveloped land was found by Fischler, who acquired it over the last two years for Clearwater Village L.C., Reichel said. Reichel was brought into the deal because he knew Malnati from living in the Atlanta area. Malnati and Fischler have units in the same condominium downtown.

    The new development would be flanked by a church and low-income apartments on Kings Highway. Reichel said he and his partners weren't deterred by the shabby appearance of some apartments in the area; he sees Kings Highway as a good opportunity for redevelopment.

    The Clearwater Village project would probably increase property values in the area, Reichel said, but prices for units haven't been determined yet.

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