DUNEDIN — Neighbors say they love the look of a new mixed-use complex proposed for downtown but hate the potential noise and parking troubles they think it will bring.
Six years after the poor economy stalled a medical office-retail development dubbed the Gateway project, Pizzuti Builders LLC has revamped it as a three-story development featuring 124 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments over 24,500 square feet of shops and restaurants, possibly including a Lucky Dill Deli.
Pizzuti hopes to break ground on the vacant 4.25-acre tract at the intersection of Main Street and Milwaukee Avenue by the end of the year.
But first, developers hope to gain the support of about a dozen neighbors who raised concerns during a meeting Monday that none of the 207 proposed parking spots will be reserved for renters, many of whom neighbors envision will have multiple vehicles.
They fear the influx of new residents on top of the retail component — especially the popular Lucky Dill — will draw even more competition for parking among renters, Mease Dunedin hospital visitors and nearby homeowners, who already jockey for spots with downtown customers, especially during festivals.
And at least one neighbor also worried that the project would draw a younger demographic, which might mean bars and noise that affect quality of life and property values.
"I don't want to back up to that," said Jamie Lombardi, who lives in the Wellington Place townhome community to the west of the project, recounting how she has seen cars spilling from the parking lot and onto the grass at the Lucky Dill on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor.
"I love the design and all that," added another neighbor, Linda Belinske. "But parking is an issue in Dunedin. People take whatever spot they can get."
The concerns echoed a common refrain among residents and city leaders, who have been trying to beef up downtown parking in recent years by adding several public lots and attempting to incorporate recommendations for a garage into future city improvement and private development plans.
The 207 parking spots planned for the Gateway include existing angled spaces on Main Street and existing parallel parking on Milwaukee Avenue, said Pizzuti representative Chris Wrenn.
Wrenn told residents there's "abundant" on-street parking to the south of the project. He emphasized that the development's heaviest focus — about 75 to 80 percent — is one-bedroom and studio apartments, reducing the likelihood of multiple cars per unit. He said businesses tend to get customers in waves, and only a couple of establishments would be open at night.
However, he added that Pizzuti will address the parking concerns, possibly by limiting parking during certain times to ensure residents can find overnight parking.
"It'll definitely be taken into consideration," Wrenn said.
He and city officials say the market calls for a mix of young and older people who desire urban living. No bars are planned.
The $15 million project has already won the support of the Local Planning Agency, a citizen advisory board that reviews projects' compliance with the land development code, then makes a recommendation to the City Commission.
LPA board member Laura Zahn worried that the project would mar downtown's quaint ambience, clog Main Street with traffic and charge rents too steep for Dunedin's signature mom-and-pop shops, resulting in high turnover or vacancies.
(Zahn abstained from voting Wednesday night because of questions about her impartiality following ex parte communication with hospital employees about their thoughts on the project).
However, outside of minor concerns about an exception allowing the development a smaller setback than usual, Zahn's colleagues on the board praised the development as an asset that will finally fill the vacant lot.
Economic development director Bob Ironsmith said the developer has already received letters of intent for 50 percent of the retail space, which he, merchants association member Gregory Brady and others believe will thrive.
The City Commission is expected to weigh in next month on the preliminary conceptual plan, tax incentives and fee waivers offered to Pizzuti.
Once approved, Wrenn said the project would take about 12 months to build. Units would rent at market rate, which is currently $800 to $1,200 a month, he said.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.