The Seminole City Council seemed dazzled when developer Richard Trzcinski first unveiled his plans recently for transforming the moribund Seminole Mall into a new city destination. But now that Trzcinski has unveiled his wish list for what he wants taxpayers to cover — $7.6 million worth of landscaping, walkways, signs, decorative lights, statues, fountains, trellises, a gazebo and other amenities plus some Penny for Pinellas money to help build the facility — the council should be less impressed. This proposal looks a lot less like economic development and a lot more like corporate welfare. Seminole needs this site redeveloped, but not at this price.
Trzcinski is president of Primerica Group One, which has partnered with Seminole Mall's new owner, North American Development Group. NADG bought the 39-acre mall property and two adjacent office buildings on 113th Street N for $16.5 million. The mall and office properties would be combined for the new project, which Trzcinski said will include a 12-screen movie theater, stores, restaurants and a fitness center.
Trzcinski's plan also includes items he calls "community enhancements" — a $40,000 outdoor stage, a $65,000 gazebo, a $225,000 entrance sign, $600,000 worth of fountains, various sculptures, a $175,000 "trellis walkway" and $102,000 worth of palm trees. He'd like the city to pick up the tab for those, plus loan fees, permit fees and the cost of a $250,000 traffic signal on 113th Street necessitated by his project.
The staggering cost of Trzcinski's entire wish list to every man, woman and child in Seminole: $440. What taxpayers will get in return: a new private venture where all profits will flow to private coffers.
But apparently not even that is enough: Trzcinski has hinted the developers may also seek state incentives or Penny for Pinellas sales tax funds to help underwrite the $80 million project.
It would be great to have a new, thriving shopping destination where the too-quiet Seminole Mall stands now. But even in the depths of the recent recession, it would have been hard to see this as a good deal for the taxpayers of Seminole. With the possible exception of the traffic light, which will be on a public thoroughfare, Trzcinski's request is unreasonable. Seminole officials should have no trouble turning it aside.