Falling land prices bring Dunedin park a step closer

DUNEDIN — With the value of the land free-falling from $18-million to about $7-million, the City Commission decided at a workshop Monday morning to move toward buying J.C. Weaver's property and transforming it into a park.

Just two years ago, it had seemed that Mayor Bob Hackworth's dream of the city buying the waterfront property split in two by Alt. U.S. 19 might not happen.

Price was a huge factor. An independent appraiser valued it at about $18-million.

But then things started to turn around.

According to City Manager Rob DiSpirito, "these figures were the result of a then-superheated real estate market as well as a misinterpretation by those appraisers of the maximum development potential of the site.''

New appraisals came in much lower, between $5-million and $10-million.

Weaver has told the city he will sell the parcel for no less than $7-million.

At the workshop, DiSpirito also told a near-capacity crowd:

• The estimated $27,000 annual cost of maintaining the park is to be paid for outside of the city's budget. He approached Coca-Cola, which has committed to fund 100 percent of the maintenance costs for five years. Talks are in the works to create a permanent endowment to pay for perpetual maintenance of the park.

• Walkers, joggers and cyclists would get from one side of the park to the other via a curbed pedestrian median in the center turn lane of Alt. 19.

• The Blatchley house, built in 1915 on the west part of the land by Dr. Willis Blatchley, the first naturalist to document Caladesi Island, could make a good off-site classroom for the Nature Center in Highlander Park. Two of the three houses on the east side could be transformed into space for artists displaced by the Imago fire and one could be used for restrooms. Or the city could opt to tear them down.

• The new figures mean the city will ask the Florida Communities Trust to amend a grant of up to $6-million it was awarded in 2007 to develop half the property.

• The city hopes Pinellas County will consider providing the full amount of matching funds for the property as well as 100 percent of an additional privately owned parcel on the water side.

According to DiSpirito, if all goes according to plan, Dunedin will soon have a quarter- mile stretch of unobstructed waterfront view from Bayshore Boulevard and the Pinellas Trail.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Falling land prices bring Dunedin park a step closer 08/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 9:33pm]

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