BY PIPER CASTILLO
Times Staff Writer
OLDSMAR — City officials have been chipping away for several years on a downtown development plan, bringing new life to a 7-acre site on State Street. One day in the not-far-off future, they want to lively streets and walkways used by residents and visitors alike visiting new businesses, boutiques and restaurants while enjoying Oldsmar's public parks and waterfront. Although much work still needs to be done, one piece of the plan is closer to becoming reality.
Two new townhome projects are in the works within the Oldsmar Town Center Commercial neighborhood district. The first, the Washington Park Village being developed by the Becklund family of Oldsmar, broke ground a few weeks ago. The second, proposed by Anthony Tanico and his company, Eastern Meridian Property Group of Palm Harbor, is in its planning stages with recent approval by the City Council authorizing the city manager to move forward on creating a development agreement.
When Washington Park Village, at St. Petersburg Drive and Park Boulevard, is complete, it will include 15 two- and three-story units ranging from $330,000-$430,000. For many years, the patriarch of the family, Steve Becklund, operated his fax and copy machine business, Alpha Omega, there. About 10 years ago, after closing the business, he and his wife, Marie, a Realtor, began talking with their adult children about what to do with the property.
"We've all owned rental properties for a long time, and we are all in this together,'' said Victor Becklund, 45, spokesperson for Washington Park Village. "We've seen how Oldsmar has transitioned from a sleepy town, and we wanted to be a part of the future.''
The family had launched a similar project at the same location before the recession, going so far as having the design and zoning in place as well as securing several deposits from future townhome owners.
"Back around 2007, I went to the city and got the zoning changed, and everything, and we were moving forward. Then, the market softened,'' Becklund said. "We ended up tabling the project and returning the deposits.''
About two years ago, the family began again. "We basically had to start all over because so many things had changed, concerning rules and zoning. We had to get things approved all over again.''
The Eastern Meridian project, if given final approval, will be built on land next to the Oldsmar Library currently owned by the city. The proposed development agreement calls for about four acres to be sold for $877,000.
At the Aug. 13 council meeting, members agreed that adding more townhomes to the downtown district works with the city's vision. However, some individuals, including longtime council member Jerry Beverland as well as resident Dale Renjbor, expressed caution over one of the items already mentioned for the proposed project — opening School Street to connect St. Petersburg Drive with Arlington Avenue. The two men cited a need for buffering for the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Marie Dauphinais, planning and redevelopment director for Oldsmar, said it was the city that recommended the connection.
"The opening makes sense for both safety and for connectivity,'' she said. "This is in a redevelopment area.''
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.