Sickles parents, other drivers worry that apartments will add to Gunn Highway gridlock

CITRUS PARK — Taking advantage of an upsurge in the rental market, apartment builder Alliance Residential plans to open the first of 296 units late next month on Gunn Highway.

The artist's rendering of Broadstone Citrus Village shows a lushly landscaped community that includes a clubhouse, pool, fitness room and apartments ranging from $835 to $1,602 a month.

But the location, across from Sickles High School and next to a busy Publix and Walgreens shopping center, worries some residents in the area, who predict a traffic mess when Sickles is in session.

"It's going to be gridlock,'' Richard Maestrelli said in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times.

Maestrelli, a resident of the Keystone community north of the area, suggests it will be reminiscent of when Gunn was two lanes instead of four along that stretch. To drop off his kids at Sickles, he said, he would have to go the back way — Van Dyke Road to the Veterans Expressway to Ehrlich to Gunn.

Fellow Keystone resident Tom Werner said that even with the wider Gunn Highway, traffic on school mornings can back up to Van Dyke Road.

Hillsborough County's director of development review, however, doesn't expect a problem.

"With our widening project and what they've done in addition to that, traffic should be adequately serviced in that section of road,'' Bob Campbell said.

Alliance Residential's engineers combined the traffic volume numbers the county recorded with the predicted volume from the complex to make the company's own road improvements, which include an additional turn lane at Mobley Road. The company said that should accommodate U-turns by traffic from Broadstone traveling south on Gunn.

The space between the apartment complex, Sickles and the Publix center isn't sufficient to allow left-turn traffic out of Broadstone, Campbell said.

Maestrelli expects the changes to increase the morning rush-hour backup on Gunn Highway, particularly north of Mobley Road where Gunn is still a two-lane road.

"It's going to be a disaster,'' he said.

Because Alliance worked with the county to make the road improvements, said company regional manager Rob Whitaker, he doubts the county would have approved the project if traffic was still a concern.

Alliance, which has apartment properties in 11 states, decided to build Broadstone Citrus Village because studies indicate the rental market in the Tampa area is on the rise, he said.

Camden, another national apartment builder, has two complexes under construction in northwest Hillsborough: the 348-unit Camden Westchase, at Countryway and Citrus Park Drive, and the 192-unit Camden Montague, at Waters Avenue and Montague Street.

Builders expect the first units in the complexes to be available for renters next spring.

Philip Morgan can be reached at pmorgan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.

DARLA CAMERON | Times

Sickles parents, other drivers worry that apartments will add to Gunn Highway gridlock 07/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 5:30am]

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