PINELLAS PARK — Officials here have hit a snag in their quest to acquire the Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission property on Park Boulevard. Mission representatives failed to show up at a Dec. 21 real estate closing that would have transferred ownership of the land to the city.
"We were there. They weren't," Pinellas Park city spokesman Tim Caddell said.
Caddell said the breakdown was caused by legal questions concerning mission leases. Officials from both the city and the mission were trying to work out final details Monday.
The Rev. Lionel Cabral, executive director of the mission, could not be reached for comment.
City officials had agreed to pay $370,000, plus an estimated $5,140 in closing costs, for the Haven of Rest's properties at 5625 and 5663 Park Blvd.
The decision to buy the property was in part a way to quiet neighbors' difficulties with some of the homeless people who frequent the Haven and in part a way to gain control of property that's in the middle of Pinellas Park's redevelopment area.
City Council members have also agreed to buy five other lots in the 5600 block of Park. In total, they've agreed to spend about $1.02 million to buy the seven lots. Their goal is to revamp the neighborhood. But it's unclear what form that might take.
"We'll wait until everybody's out and the property's vacant and we can go in and really assess it," Caddell said. "Then we can make our plans."
The closing on some lots is not scheduled until mid March, and it's unclear how long it might take to resolve the snag on the mission property.
The block, which is divided into 10 lots, sits on the north side of Park Boulevard between 56th and 57th streets N. It's in the middle of Pinellas Park's redevelopment area, which stretches for three blocks on either side of Park and 49th Street N.
While city officials want the whole area to improve, they've been especially concerned about the area of Park around the railroad tracks. They see it as the city's downtown and historic district. They've envisioned it as a gateway to draw visitors and shoppers into a quirky district dotted with small businesses like artists' lofts and galleries and ice cream shops.
In addition to the mission property, they've agreed to pay:
• $82,000 for about 0.21 acres of vacant land on the northwest corner of Park and 56th Street N.
• $145,000 for 0.18 acres at 5609 Park, currently occupied by IHK Security.
• $166,500 for about 0.35 acres at 5667 Park, owned by GTE Federal Credit Union, doing business as GTE Financial. The Spin City laundry was formerly on the site.
•$250,000 for 0.13 acres on two lots at 5681 Park, currently occupied by Dolphin Plumbing.
The council also agreed to buy one lot in the block immediately to the west. The council agreed to pay $140,000, plus about $1,943 in 2012 property taxes, for 0.19 acres at 5705 Park, the site of Tucks Marine. The land is directly opposite the United Cottages area of the city on 75th Avenue N. The city has bought two of those lots, where it is erecting buildings that can be used as businesses, homes or both.
Not purchased are 5687, 5619 and 5635 Park. The property at 5687 Park is occupied by a chiropractor; Bottles Pub, a neighborhood bar, is at 5619. It is unclear if those owners would be willing to sell.
The third parcel, 5635 Park, is the location of Rick Butler Realty. But Butler, who serves on the council, excused himself from voting on any of the land deals because he could potentially profit if the land values increase. But he has long pushed for that area of Park to be improved and now says, "I don't have any interest in selling at all."
Butler added, "I just finished fixing my office up after a lady drove her car through it. … It needed to be updated a little bit and now it is. Now, I got it right where I want it. I'm kind of happy with it."
Although he plans to stay, Butler said he's open to make changes to help redevelopment along. But what those changes might be or where the city plans to go with them is up in the air.
Butler would like to see at least some of the area turned into an incubator for small businesses. The idea is to provide a small, reasonably priced place for someone who has been working out of his or her home or garage and gotten too big for that. If successful in the incubator, the business owner could move into bigger quarters elsewhere in the city.
"I've got a lot of passion in that block. I just really think it has potential," Butler said. The idea of using some of the area as a business incubator is "a neat idea. Will it work? Who knows? But it's better than what we're doing now."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.