DUNEDIN — A $15 million mixed-use project that would transform a long-vacant grass lot into a bustling downtown gateway is seeking city approval.
Local developer Joe Kokolakis has partnered with prominent St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem's JMC Communities — the firm behind such projects as the Sandpearl resort on Clearwater Beach and the Ovation condominium tower in downtown St. Petersburg — on Victoria Place, a retail, office and condo development proposed for a 1.3-acre parcel at 200 Main St.
The property is next to the marina, where Main Street bends into Edgewater Drive.
Plans call for 30 condos built above 8,000 square feet of first-floor retail and offices. Building heights would be three stories on Main Street and four stories on the Victoria Drive side of the project.
The 1,600- to 2,200-square-foot condos would have two or three bedrooms, a den and 2 1/2 baths. They would also include two parking spaces each, plus attached garages for some, and likely sell for $400,000 to $800,000.
The development's retail entrance would front Main Street while the condo entrance would be on Victoria Drive, a picturesque waterfront street where developers would add nine public parking spaces plus landscaping and a new sidewalk, bury overhead utility lines and repave a portion of the road.
The approval process kicks off today, with the city staff asking a citizen advisory board to support the plan.
Victoria Place would be among the first to benefit from recent Land Dedication Ordinance changes that discount park impact fees for downtown developers under certain circumstances.
City commissioners also recently approved a new form-based code category to encourage more mixed-use developments that provide walkable hubs where residents can live, work and play, especially downtown.
Dunedin economic development director Bob Ironsmith said Victoria Place residents would reduce downtown merchants' reliance on tourists. He also hopes the project helps attract other developers.
"It's a highly visible corner and it's a nice bookend entryway into the city," Ironsmith said. "It'll really strengthen the connection between our marina and downtown, build the tax base and spur a lot of interest in downtown in general. We're pumped."
The project wouldn't be the first proposed for 200 Main St.
In 2004 and 2005, former Dunedin City Manager Richard Gehring and two other investors bought the old Victoria Lodge, the Bay Palms motel and the Sun Blest Apartments at Victoria Drive and Main Street. They won city approval to build a $30 million, six-story complex featuring 46 condos and 10,000 square feet of retail, but the project tanked after their bank sued them in 2008 for defaulting on $5.7 million in loans.
Kokolakis plans to turn an existing home at 821 Victoria Drive, originally intended as a clubhouse for the previous project, into a private residence for his in-laws.
Victoria Place is the second major project proposed for the Edgewater Drive corridor in the last week. It is a half-mile from the deteriorating Fenway Hotel, which a development team announced Friday it is planning to buy and redevelop with a boutique hotel.
Ironsmith praised both JMC and Kokolakis as "first-class developers" with proven track records. And Kokolakis, a 30-year Dunedin resident who has developed other commercial properties downtown, said his comfort with the quality and style of previous JMC projects prompted him to select the firm for this most recent 50-50 joint venture.
"As a resident of Dunedin with other commercial properties downtown," Kokolakis said, "I felt like I had a vested interest in ensuring it's done right."
Added JMC sales and marketing director Claudia Emery: "We're so excited to be the lucky chosen developer to build this dream for the city."
The Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee will hear a presentation about the project today. The Local Planning Agency, a citizen board that makes land-use recommendations, will weigh in April 9. And the City Commission is expected to hold public hearings and vote on May 1 and June 5.
The Victoria Place developers expect their lender to require a certain number of condo presales before construction can begin. They said they hope to start sales this summer, then break ground by later this year or early 2015. Victoria Place would take 12 to 14 months to build.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.