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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dunedin Causeway apartments proposal aims to boost local economy




DUNEDIN - A proposal to build luxury apartments on the Dunedin Causeway is on hold after a city advisory board's members said Wednesday that they couldn't vote on preliminary plans that contained inconsistent and incomplete information.

Arcadia Luxury Apartments was initially approved two years ago as a condominium project. At the time, developers said they needed to pre-sell as much as 70 percent of the 20 units to finance construction.

But the economy continued to sour, so developers are instead proposing a 26-unit upscale rental complex for the vacant 1.2-acre property.

Developers appeared Wednesday before Dunedin's Local Planning Agency, a citizen advisory board that reviews matters affecting the city land development code and makes recommendations to the City Commission.

Group members called the project "exciting," but one by one they noted that the plans contained misspellings as well as blueprints and information that varied from page to page. Some documents the board requires were missing.

The seven-person board unanimously decided to give developers until their Jan. 11 meeting to submit the corrected documents and answer their questions about landscaping, stormwater retention, parking and other items.

"I can see where they're going with it and it's a great idea and I would be all for it," said board member Adam Smith, "but we kind of need all the documents to make a decision."

The proposed complex, at 265 Causeway Blvd., would be located on the south side, near the causeway's entrance, on a site that once housed the Louisiana Seafood Co.

Plans call for 56 ground-floor parking spaces, an exercise room and pool, and five stories of 1,627-square-foot, two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath units with private balconies overlooking scenic St. Joseph Sound. Anticipated rent is $1,500 to $1,800 a month.

Developers Vince Iannucci of LT Construction of Tampa Bay and Gus Damis of Clearwater said they would require tenants to sign a minimum year lease, and they anticipate accepting and approving applications before construction is complete.

Iannucci acknowledged Wednesday that they are still in the design phase, so some of the plans submitted to the planning agency were left over from the previous condominium project. He vowed to update the documents within the next couple of weeks.

Developers said that, with the economic downturn, condo sales and bank financing for them plummeted. But increased foreclosures have fueled the market for rentals.

City staff hopes year-round residency at the complex will increase business for causeway merchants, who currently rely on traffic from seasonal residents and struggle during summer months.

Read more about the project's history and hopes for its future here.

About a dozen residents from nearby housing developments attended Wednesday's meeting to raise concerns about blocked water views, the proposed complex's limited parking, potential effect on neighboring stormwater systems, and increased causeway traffic congestion, especially on weekends. The causeway leads to popular Honeymoon Island State Park.

Several residents and planning agency members also requested that the city research whether officials could require a completion agreement to ensure that, should the economic downturn continue, the city doesn't end up with an unfinished "white elephant" on the causeway.

Dunedin planning and development director Greg Rice said the city in recent years took a cue from some beachside communities and adopted construction time limits, which allows city code enforcement to levy fines of up to $250 a day for incomplete structures and eventually foreclose.

Iannucci said he and his partners have already secured funding from lenders who took the economic climate into consideration.

"They certainly don't want to see a building that's half finished," he said.

--Keyonna Summers, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 11:05am]


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