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Building's new incarnation nearly complete

As the former Alzheimer's center prepares for a new use, several other projects are bringing Dunedin new life.

By LEON M. TUCKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001


As the former Alzheimer's center prepares for a new use, several other projects are bringing Dunedin new life.

DUNEDIN -- When Mark Hanna and Louis Orloff decided to have breakfast last year at Kelly's in downtown Dunedin, they hardly expected to pay for more than the meal they had eaten that morning.

But when the two Safety Harbor businessmen heard about an auction taking place around the corner they decided to check it out.

"When we got there, I saw the auctioneer, who was a friend of mine," said Hanna, president of M.E.H. Communications, Inc. "Then when the bidding started it was kind of low so I said "Come on, Louis, let's bid.' "

They did.

And when the bidding was over, Hanna and Orloff were the proud owners of a 100-year-old building that once housed patients stricken with Alzheimer's disease.

The former Dunedin Alzheimer's Center, which Hanna and Orloff bought for $286,000, is in the final stages of being converted into mixed-use office and retail space.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration shut down the Center in 1998 after a 76-year-old man was injured there and later died.

Built in 1900, the 6,700-square-foot, wood-frame structure had 14 bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

For another $300,000, a crew has gutted the house and replaced old wood. They plan to finish the six 1,000-square-foot units in the coming months.

"We're making a lot of headway," Hanna said. "It took so long to get to where we are at this point. I don't even think about much more than that, in the end, I just know it's going to be beautiful."

In the past year, Dunedin has seen a host of revitalization and construction projects pop up around town. Officials also see those efforts as a way of attracting other similar activity to the area.

In March 2000, the Dunedin company Prelude Construction built a 3,200-square-foot building on Main Street, where it later moved its office. The company also completed a five-unit, 5,900-square-foot office complex on Skinner Boulevard in December and is now the process of constructing a office 25,000 square feet retail and restaurant complex along south Douglas Avenue.

Construction on a 75-room Holiday Inn Express began in January and is being built at Alt. U.S. 19 and Skinner Boulevard. The three-story project is expected to open this fall.

"This is extremely positive and we're extremely excited it will bring some more activity there -- especially off the trail and down Honey Lane," said Bob Ironsmith, economic development director for Dunedin. "The more positive investment you have to point to, the easier it is for other people to look at potential opportunities down the road."

Hanna also said a graphic arts firm and an insurance company have expressed interest in occupying two of the units and expects leasing the remaining space to be easy.

"Things look good over there, and hopefully the economy will continue to go up," Hanna said. "It looks like Dunedin is getting there. And though it has taken a little bit of time, it's getting to be a very desireable spot on the map."

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