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Preservation activist's heirs support development plan

CITRUS PARK — A seven-story hotel is going up on Citrus Park land that was near and dear to one of the community's most vocal anti­development civic leaders.

Jean Carson, longtime president of the Citrus Park Civic Association, lived on Easy Street, on the fringes of Citrus Park. Easy Street was one of the areas of which Carson, who died nearly two years ago, was most protective.

Now, 7 acres between Easy Street and Citrus Park Lane are targeted for a $45-million mixed-use development. And Carson's heirs have sold the right of way on Easy Street to make way for the hotel, restaurants and shops.

"I know Jean didn't want it sold," said Janet Hiltz, a community leader and Carson's friend. "But I don't think when you pass on and you pass your land onto your heirs, you can say they can't have some feelings about it, too."

Citrus Park Crossings is being built by Odessa developer Christopher Daye. He said his project will decrease traffic on Easy Street.

He'll route traffic through Citrus Park Lane, which runs parallel to Easy Street. Easy Street, he said, will be used only for installation and maintenance of utilities.

The project is a boon to Big Cat Rescue, a wildlife preserve on Easy Street that found itself at odds with Carson.

Big Cat founder Carole Baskin said, "we are thrilled" about the hotel, a first for Citrus Park. "So many people come to visit us from around the world, and now they can have a place to stay that will be convenient."

At the rezoning hearings, Carson's daughter, Sharon Carlton, said the project will be good for the community and will help limit traffic. She also said the arrangement will allow some relatives to remain in their home on the street.

The 252,000-square-foot development will sit between Veterans Expressway and Gunn Highway, an area that has exploded with commerce since the Westfield Citrus Park mall opened in 1999.

The complex, taking two years to complete, will consist of two 100-foot-high buildings to include a 150-room hotel, restaurants, an office building and shops.

"If I had my whim, I'd have a bike shop and a coffee shop and some place that served a little more lunch-type food," Daye said. "With Westchase, Citrus Park and Odessa, you've got the second best demographics of disposable income in the Tampa Bay area."

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5308.

Preservation activist's heirs support development plan 03/28/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008 10:30pm]

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