SAFETY HARBOR — Will the economy improve enough within the next 30 months for people to snap up $500,000 townhouses on a plot of land near McMullen-Booth Road where transients now live?
Kent Runnells hopes so.
In 2005, the developer and former mayor invested $1.6 million in 2.6 acres at the northwest corner of Oak Avenue and Main Street with the intention of building a luxury gated community called Harbor Key Townhomes. The property includes two houses as well as the Wood Haven Motel and apartments where one can rent a room for $100 a week.
All the structures are slated for demolition when a date is set for construction.
The city originally approved Runnells' site plan in 2006, then granted him a one-year extension in 2007. When that lapsed last December, he was forced to submit a new application to the city. Last week, commissioners gave him 21/2 years to start building the first eight units.
He must start building the next 10 dwellings within three years. The entire community must be finished within five years.
Before the first batch of concrete is poured, he says he has to sell at least eight of the units.
As a developer and real estate lawyer, he knows it won't be easy in this economic climate.
"Of course we're worried,'' Runnells said. "We're developers.''
Designed by architect Yogi Schlereth of Clearwater, each two-story, 2,650-square-foot townhouse will have four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths and a two-car garage.
The airy, Key West-inspired design features metal roofs, wide balconies, open living spaces, lofts and cupolas that allow natural light to shine in.
The community would sit nearly 50 feet above sea level, and the traffic noise from nearby McMullen-Booth Road would be buffered by 150 feet of tree-filled land.
Harry Caldwell, president of the neighboring Los Prados Condo Association, supports the plan, saying it would "increase our property values'' and make for a more scenic gateway to the city.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.