Sunday, December 10, 2017
Business

Developers eager to build in Largo, but want a break on fees

LARGO — The new apartment complex will have a "bark park," where apartment dwellers can take their dogs. It will have an expansive pool area with grills and, if the developer can make it work, an artificial beach complete with cabanas and a volleyball court. It will even have a bike trail open to the public.

These are some of the amenities Pollack Shores Real Estate Group of Atlanta has planned for its new 342-unit luxury apartment complex on the site of the old Crossroads Mall and former Bay Area Outlet Mall.

The amenities are part of the reason city officials are excited about the planned development on 38.5 acres on the southeast corner of U.S. 19 and Roosevelt Boulevard.

The amenities are also part of the reason city officials are considering giving the developers a nearly $500,000 discount on impact fees.

The former mall site is the latest vacant Largo property to draw the interest of an apartment developer and, as city commissioners learned this week, it won't be the last.

But the interest in Largo comes with a catch. Developers are looking for big breaks on impact fees, and one commissioner wonders if it's time for the city to change what it charges developers.

With no discounts, Pollack Shores would owe Largo $886,190 in two different types of fees created to help pay for city parks and recreational facilities. Pollack Shores has asked for $485,544 in reductions.

After hearing a presentation from a Pollack Shores representative Tuesday night, commissioners approved moving forward with negotiations. The city staff needed commission approval before including discounts that large in the proposed agreement between the city and developer.

Pollack Shores wasn't the only developer looking for a deal Tuesday night. Norstar Development, a Buffalo company looking to build a 153-unit affordable-housing complex for senior citizens on Ulmerton Road beside the Pinellas Trail, also asked to negotiate discounts.

The recurring theme led Commissioner Bob Murray to ask if it was time to change what the city charges developers.

"It appears the parkland fee is a stumbling block for developers," he said.

Community Development Director Carol Stricklin agreed. Largo is open to discounting the fees because of the amenities Pollack Shores has planned for its residents, she said, but also because the impact fee schedule is outdated.

"Your observation is absolutely correct, this formula really no longer meets the needs of the development community," Stricklin told Murray.

Commissioners were just happy to see multiple developers interested in building in Largo. The land Pollack Shores wants to build its apartments on has sat vacant since 2005. Pollack Shores representative Anthony Everett showed commissioners pictures of 5 West apartments in Tampa, a complex that looks similar to what Pollack has planned for Largo.

"With the development that is going on in the area, we thought it was a terrific location," Everett said. Pollack Shores will break ground on the new apartment complex, which has a tentative name of "Gateway North," after Walmart starts work on its 120,000-square-foot store next door later this year.

"Go ahead," Commissioner Curtis Holmes told Everett after commissioners approved the proposed terms. "Get your shovel out."

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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