PINELLAS PARK — Officials here have spent much of the past year buying up most of two city blocks to create an incubator to help startup businesses get off the ground.
But now they're about to sell two of those lots to a local developer.
Council members are scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal to sell the empty lot at 5609 Park Blvd. and the empty lot adjoining it to the east to BDG Park LLC for $250,000, a profit of about $23,000. BDG Park is run by Carlos and Christian Yepes, owners of Belleair Development Group, a Pinellas Park-based company that developed, among other things, the Cheddars restaurant at 4101 Park Blvd. Christian Yepes could not be reached for comment so it is unclear what might go on the property. The contract limits the possibilities to a restaurant, fast food establishment, office, or retail.
The city bought the 0.174 acres at 5609 Park — which housed IHK Security — in February for $145,000. It bought the vacant 0.206-acre lot next door in late December for $82,000.
The purchases were part of an attempt by Pinellas Park officials to take over the entire 10-lot block to help guide development there. The block is in the middle of the city's redevelopment area. But three of the property owners refused to sell — council member Rick Butler, Bottles Pub and chiropractor James Strubbe.
At the same time, the city was also gobbling up lots a block to the west and north in the United Cottages area.
The idea was to create a so-called business incubator for entrepreneurs. The city would offer its properties to startups at below-market rates to help get the new businesses off the ground. As the businesses grew, they would move out of the city-owned properties to make room for more startups.
City spokesman Tim Caddell said he does not believe the sale of the two Park Boulevard lots indicates the city has given up on the incubator idea. Rather, the city got an offer it felt it couldn't refuse, he said.
Caddell noted that Pinellas Park already has one business renting in the United Cottages area, where owners are able to live above their companies. Rick Incorvia, owner of Sign Doctor, formerly of Odessa, has moved in there. Incorvia, brother of Pinellas Park planner Joe Incorvia, wanted a more central location to be nearer his customers.
Pinellas Park has also rented the former Dolphin Plumbing building, 5681 Park Blvd., to artist Vincent Pompei. Pompei has a 10-year lease on the building and is renovating to suit his needs.
The city has also rented five office spaces at 5663 Park — adjacent to the western wall of Butler's real estate office — to an author, the publisher of a journal about local history, a landscape designer, a therapeutic masseuse and a database developer.
But all is not rosy for the city's plans.
City Manager Mike Gustafson told council members this month that one of the buildings will have to be razed. The building, the former Spin City laundromat at 5665 Park, has some major structural defects, including cracks and gaps between the wall and the concrete floor.
It is unclear when the building will be demolished.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.