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Investors plot ambitious resort, marina and retail at John's Pass

TREASURE ISLAND — Owners of 10-plus acres of waterfront property at the city's north end are talking with city officials about their plans to develop a resort hotel, marina, condos and retail.

The project may be one of the first to take shape under the city's proposed planned development district now being scrutinized by the planning and zoning board. If approved, the new zoning district is designed to encourage higher-end developments by allowing more flexibility in zoning restrictions.

Greenleaf Capital, the real estate division of HCI Holdings, is considering plans to develop its property at John's Pass, which includes 8.4 acres on the east side of the bridge and 2.2 acres on the west side along with several other less-than-an-acre parcels.

Jay Madhu, president of Greenleaf, said the company is exploring its options and meeting with city officials to talk about ideas for a "marquee property for Treasure Island" that could cost $100 million to $150 million to build.

Currently the property includes Gator's Café and Saloon, a marina, a former fish house and lots of undeveloped land, Madhu said. The company recently purchased a small piece of property at Gulf Boulevard and Kingfish Drive, the site of a former liquor store.

"It is not contiguous with the property and we don't know what we'll use it for, but it is near the entrance to the development," he said.

A team of designers is working on plans and attending city meetings to learn more about the proposed zoning district and whether it will help the project.

"Within the next year, we hope to get a solid game plan together," Madhu said. "We want to make that property a destination."

Madhu admitted that the property "has some challenges" in terms of development. Current zoning regulations "don't give us the ability to put together a feasible plan," he said. He said the new zoning district being considered could help by allowing for more flexibility in areas like density. Currently, zoning regulations allow up to 50 units per acre for projects with a resort facility designation.

"I think they are moving in the right direction with this," Madhu said.

The new district would allow businesses to gain points for using energy-efficient appliances, green building that meets LEED certification and providing outdoor public spaces. Points could then translate into higher density, up to 75 units per acre on properties under 3 acres and up to 100 units per acre for larger properties.

The City Commission would have to approve final development plans. Increases in density levels and heights would have to be approved by voters.

Paula Cohen, city planner, said the new district would offer "more opportunity for them to develop in a more creative fashion."

"We've been working very well with them," she said. "They haven't submitted a plan yet. They've approached us with some ideas."

Looking at the large piece of property with a more comprehensive view under a planned development district makes sense, Cohen said.

"When you own so many individual parcels, you need to make sure the traffic circulation is appropriate, the design makes sense and you look at the impact to the neighborhood," she said.

Mayor Bob Minning said the area is ripe for a high-end development.

"It is nice to see someone step forward with the drive and wherewithal to do this project," he said.

According to the city's land development regulations, any increase in density or height would need voter approval, but Minning thinks people are ready to give their okay.

"It's time to turn the page and present the option to our voters. I think they are receptive to development on the north end of the island," he said.

Investors plot ambitious resort, marina and retail at John's Pass 06/29/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 5:12pm]
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