CLEARWATER — A long-stalled project gained fresh life this week as city officials approved a $30 million apartment complex on downtown's eastern edge.
Prospect Lake, a nearly 6-acre parcel, has been an elusive object of city officials' best-intended plans for 15 years. Several false starts have yielded only a modest town home development along Cleveland Street.
Last year, city council members selected an Orlando area developer, Prospect Real Estate Group, to build 257 high-end apartments as part of a plan to lure young tech workers already working downtown to put down roots.
"The goal is to create an urban community within walking distance to our commercial and social destination," Geri Lopez, the city's economic development and housing director, said on Monday.
In other words, pump energy into downtown.
The project hit an early bump a year ago when Mayor George Cretekos and other city officials said the Prospect Group hadn't told them about the criminal troubles of the former head of the firm, Richard Zahn, who had pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in South Carolina.
Cretekos said Monday that his lone vote against the project last year was now moot.
"I really appreciate the work the team has done in going over that hump," Cretekos said. "We look forward to … a full complement of tenants and businesses at Prospect Lake."
Other issues have bogged down the project, originally slated to have already broken ground.
Prospect will pay $2.5 million for the site, but the city will shoulder significant costs.
• After initial site work turned up deposits of organic muck all over the property, the city agreed to credit $725,000 to the developer at closing.
• The city will also reimburse $700,000 to help attract commercial tenants, including a restaurant and retailers. The money will be paid in two installments pegged to the completion of the retail space.
• The city will also pay $250,000 to relocate utilities on the parcel.
• The city also expects to pay back about $250,000 to the federal government to settle an earlier grant for the property.
If all goes well, the project should begin to take shape by the end of the year.
Council member Jay Polglaze praised the developer's patience with the delays shortly before he and the four other council members unanimously approved the project.
"We're going as fast as we can so that we can get this out of the ground by Thanksgiving," he said.
Charlie Frago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago