Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Prospect Lake project is a go despite mayor's reservations

CLEARWATER — The city will allow an Orlando-area company to build apartments and stores on a city-owned property downtown, despite recent revelations in the Tampa Bay Times that its ex-owner was snagged in a federal corruption investigation.

Prospect Real Estate Group never notified the city during the selection process about Richard Zahn's scheme to bribe public officials in South Carolina.

That bothered Mayor George Cretekos, who spoke up at a City Council work session Tuesday attended by Prospect Real Estate Group staff.

"I don't like surprises. We've gotten a lot of surprises in the last couple of weeks. It makes me extremely uncomfortable," Cretekos said.

Cretekos cast the only vote against the company's $34 million proposal to build 247 high-end apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space on nearly 6 acres overlooking Prospect Lake on the eastern edge of downtown.

The other four council members voted for the project, but directed city staff to negotiate a tough development agreement, including penalties if the firm falls behind schedule or abandons the project.

"If they don't hold up their end of the log, I want some pain associated with it," said Vice Mayor Paul Gibson.

The council approved the project while sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency. City planners hope to negotiate a development agreement with Prospect within the next two to three months.

Richard Zahn severed ties with the Prospect group in December. His wife, Michele, stepped down last week. Richard Zahn pleaded guilty in February to federal charges of conspiracy to bribe former South Carolina State University officials in connection with the sale of some land he owned privately.

Zahn could face up to five years in prison, but he said he has worked out a plea agreement with federal prosecutors for three years of probation that wouldn't restrict his business activities. Zahn contends that he has no plans to return to his former company.

Some downtown boosters have worried that Prospect's plans for retail on the downtown land aren't viable. The company has asked for city assistance in developing and marketing the site along Cleveland Street.

Bill Sturtevant, chairman of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, said the most important thing is to get something going in the blighted area.

"We've all been troubled over what we've heard over the last several weeks. However, at this time I think it's most important that we figure out some way — search our souls — and figure out a way to move a development forward," he said.

Council members said Prospect's plans were excellent and the company has a good track record in urban redevelopment in Tampa and Orlando. The company's development team attended the council meeting and promised they would have the money and expertise to get it done.

The city needs more housing for high-tech workers and Prospect can deliver, said council member Jay Polglaze.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected]ampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts b...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for April 19

Thursday’s scoreboardBaseballDixie Hollins 8, Canterbury 0Northeast 13, Lakewood 3Calvary Christian 5, Berkeley Prep 2
Updated: 1 hour ago
Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

TAMPA — Firefighters were battling a blaze at Captiva Club Apartments on Thursday night, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.According to video taken at the scene, the roof of one of the apartment buildings at 4401 Club Captiva Dr. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed at a restaurant about 3 p.m. Thursday.The deputies were at Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton when a man shot them through the restaurant’s window, a Sheriff’s Office statement said.A...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

ST. PETERSBURG — Development of the city’s long-awaited pier advanced another step Thursday.The City Council approved a $15 million construction contract and additional money to design a waterside restaurant, build a playground and ferret out naming ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions.The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 at...
Updated: 3 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro south on Interstate 275...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home early Thursday morning and confronted the owners with a knife.The incident took place about 3:40 a.m. at a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road, according to Largo...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested on allegations that he burglarized a home, set it on fire and stole the homeowner’s dog, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Austin Lang, 19, now faces numerous charges of burglary, arson and poss...
Updated: 4 hours ago