TARPON SPRINGS — A mini-housing boom is rumbling here.
Developers are building three subdivisions and apartment complexes and resuming construction on five projects that were on hold since the housing bust, said Karen Lemmons, the city's economic development manager.
The projects are expected to generate 353 new residential units, as well as $500,000 in annual property tax revenue to Tarpon and $2 million to Pinellas County, Lemmons said.
"We are seeing a big change, and I think that's a combination of the economy coming back and the fact that we've been more aggressive about marketing what we have to offer in Tarpon Springs," said Lemmons, adding that Tarpon Springs is involved in a new push to promote the area and pursue developers.
To expedite development, the city has streamlined permitting for the long-stalled projects that were in progress before the recession, Lemmons said.
Some of the growth, she said, may be in anticipation of the planned medical buildings, retail stores and restaurants at the new Meres Town Center north of Florida Hospital North Pinellas, Lemmons said. Those businesses will bring in doctors, nurses and other professionals from outside the area, she added.
The following projects are in various stages of planning and construction.
Callista Cay: Sixty-two canal-front town homes on Meres Boulevard west of Alt. U.S. 19 are expected to be completed in 2013. The homes have private docks with access to the Gulf of Mexico. One six-unit building was constructed in 2009, and the infrastructure for the remaining lots is in place.
The Banyans: On the same canal system as nearby Callista Cay, developers are expected to resume construction on a town home project that halted with only four units built in 2008. Plans for the project, on Morgan Street west of Alt. U.S. 19, include 58 units with accompanying private docks.
Riverview at Tarpon: Developers are poised to complete a 10-home subdivision on Rivercrest Lane, near the Sponge Docks. Four of the homes have been in place since 2009.
Brittany Park: Construction is set to resume on a 2005 project that includes 58 condominium units and 1,500 square feet of retail space on Brittany Park Road, west of U.S. 19.
Anclote River Crossings: Builders will put up the final 10 units on a 36-unit waterfront development east of Alt. U.S. 19, near the Sponge Docks.
Santos Isles: Construction is under way on a $5.5 million low-income apartment complex at the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Safford Avenue, along the Pinellas Trail. The 50-unit complex has a clubhouse and pool and is for seniors 55 and up.
Tarpon Key: Known as the former Linger Longer mobile home park site, the Anclote Road subdivision will have 62 single-family homes on 20 acres. Construction is slated for this year.
Keystone Road: Developers plan to build 43 homes at a 13-acre site on Keystone Road, with Lake Tarpon frontage. City commissioners approved the development Jan. 22.
Tarpon Springs is not the only community with a swell in development, said Mark Hendrickson of the Florida Housing Coalition.
Although construction is far under its 1990s peak, record low interest rates and rebounding consumer confidence are emboldening builders who at this time last year were too unsure to act.
"What we're seeing is the market is stabilized and prices are starting to go up again," Hendrickson said. "And builders are starting to get back into building newly constructed homes."
Developers are also seeing the profitability of rental properties and apartments, which are in demand as foreclosures continue to force people out of their homes.
Case in point: The Richman Group of Florida, the West Palm Beach developer behind the Santos Isles apartments in Tarpon, is working to open nearly 500 apartments in Hillsborough County, Largo, Clearwater and Safety Harbor.
Todd Fabbri, a developer for the Richman Group, said the rising demand for rentals includes several demographics, including seniors who prefer not to deal with yard upkeep and young professionals who like the flexibility of not owning a home.
Sweetening the deal, the Richman Group got a federal tax credit to build Santos Isles for low-income seniors, a group for which the affordable housing demand far outweighs the supply.
"I can only speak for us, but we consider a lot of factors when determining where to build," Fabbri said. "We do the market research, and if that shows a demand, we go in and try to build it."
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