DUNEDIN — Officials say a new land use and zoning designation for the former Nielsen Media Research site has already sparked interest from at least one developer, who made a purchase offer even before the changes won final approval from the City Commission last week.
The new designations mean the developer who eventually buys the vacant 23-acre parcel at 375 Patricia Ave. can build a mixed-use project that might include condos, offices, boutiques, restaurants and other retail instead of a light-industrial project, which city and Pinellas County officials had been trying to attract since Nielsen left in 2005.
The developer would also be required to include a public square and designate at least 15 percent of the site, or roughly 3.5 acres, to offices for a target employment center — jobs in high-wage industries such as medical research, finance or information technology.
Joel Tew, land-use attorney for Wells Fargo, which owns the site, said the bank has authorized its broker to launch a brochure and "aggressive" regional marketing campaign.
Tew told city commissioners that even before their vote Thursday, a developer approached him with a "very credible offer" to buy the property. Tew told the Tampa Bay Times he was not authorized to disclose details of that offer.
"We're very optimistic," Tew said, "that we're going to be able to position this and procure a very reputable mixed-use developer that can get this thing launched and hopefully deliver what we'll all be proud of."
The City Commission's unanimous vote is the culmination of a year of meetings with residents and county leaders aimed at smoothing the way for a project that the bank's planning firm, the city staff and an independent economist have said would better fit market conditions.
One of the major points of contention was the county's reluctance to lose industrial and office space, which is scarce in Florida's most densely populated county, for fear that it would hamper the area's ability to attract high-wage employers.
However, city and bank officials proposed a trade-off that would allow an employment center nearby on State Road 580 even larger than what could have fit on Patricia Avenue. That roadway, they said, is better suited than the largely residential Patricia Avenue because it is among those being targeted for improved transit service under the Greenlight Pinellas proposal. That would make it an ideal location for employees who traverse the county without cars.
"It's not a loss of 23 acres," Dunedin planning director Greg Rice said. "Instead, we're going to shift it to a better spot."
The Pinellas Planning Council and County Commission unanimously approved the Patricia Avenue land-use change, officials said Thursday.
Dunedin commissioners enthusiastically praised the new direction, too, and encouraged the bank to continue collaborating closely with surrounding neighbors.
"This is an exciting project and it's going to help redefine the new corridor," Commissioner Ron Barnette said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold," Vice Mayor Julie Scales said.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.