SEMINOLE — For years, the overriding hope for officials, business owners and many residents of this city was for Seminole Mall to be rebuilt and bring with it a vibrant shopping destination that would usher in jobs and prosperity.
That goal seems within grasp now that developers have proposed tearing down the existing structure and building a spiffy, more modern design with room for a 12-screen movie complex, a fitness center, retail shops and restaurants. The developers' presentation at the July 22 Seminole council meeting was designed to dazzle.
"This is your downtown and we want to create a city center you will be proud to embrace," said Dale Johnson, director of development and construction for Primerica Group One. Primerica has partnered with mall owner Seminole Mall LP and Primerica Developments, a Tampa-based company whose primary focus is on the development or redevelopment of shopping centers, to revamp the property.
Certainly most of the council and observers in the standing-room-only audience were impressed. But now the hard work begins.
The first indication could come Aug. 12 at a tentatively scheduled public workshop to discuss the proposal.
City Manager Frank Edmunds said the council will discuss whether members like the concept enough to authorize city staff to start negotiating a development agreement with Primerica and North America Development group, the Toronto-based company that owns Seminole Mall LP.
"Essentially, the concept presented could not be built without a relaxation of some city requirements," Edmunds said.
So the first phase of negotiations would likely concern those. That's the easy step.
If the council wants to go ahead, the next step would be consideration of the developers' proposal to form a public-private partnership. That could take many forms, but one possibility Primerica Group One's president Richard Trzcinski mentioned to the council involved a rebate of property taxes once the mall is rebuilt. Trzcinski also referred to sales taxes, Penny for Pinellas money and hinted at also going to Pinellas County and the state for incentives to help develop the 39-plus acres at the northeast corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street N. But Trzcinski was vague about details.
"They need to be much more specific," Edmunds said. "Without the developers being more specific, it's impossible for the council to react."
The city has asked for details and, once it gets them, Edmunds said, he'll schedule another workshop with the council to discuss whether to accept, reject, or negotiate that portion of the proposal.
The idea of using tax money to encourage retail development is something new for Seminole, he said. The city has hired consultants to help usher officials through both the planning and design process and negotiations over monetary and other incentives. It's an effort, Edmunds said, to make sure Seminole protects its taxpayers' interests.
"I think the city needs to be very cautious," Edmunds said. "We want to make sure what happens there is successful but that at the same time our fundamental philosophy of being cautious with tax dollars will be the overriding issue in our conversations."
Contact Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.