For the last few months, City Manager Bruce Haddock and his staff have been negotiating with a development group to begin phase one of Market Square, a public/private project downtown envisioned to include offices, restaurants, shops and a public plaza.
The City Council has made revitalizing and expanding Oldsmar's small downtown a priority, but at a recent work session, some council members expressed concern about a 600-space parking garage the city has tentatively agreed to build for the project.
The city already plans to convey land for office buildings to the development group. To finance the parking garage, the city also would have to take out a $10 million, 30-year bond.
"Look, this is tough,'' said council member Jerry Beverland. "It's going to take years and years and years to get back all that we are putting into it, and remember, we're giving away land.''
Over the summer, the city began negotiating a development agreement with its development partners, which include FSA Inc. of Oldsmar (led by architect Francisco Semsch), Kennedy Investments of Tampa and two local technology companies anxious to move their workers into downtown - Vology Data Systems and Tandel Systems Inc.
Phase 1 would involve construction of three office buildings totaling 156,000 square feet for employees of Vology, Tandel and a third business only identified as "the Wellness Center."
Two of the office buildings and the city parking garage would front on State Street between Fairfield Street and Washington Avenue. The third office building would sit at Tampa Road and Washington Avenue.
At this point in the negotiations, the developers have agreed to pay for building construction, building permits, construction plan review fees, city impact fees and eventually, property taxes.
The city has agreed to provide land for office buildings, construct public infrastructure such as water and sewer, and build and operate a parking garage.
The city and developers have disagreed about how much they must pay to use the garage, which the city will own.
The city has asked the developers to pay a one-time PILOP fee (a payment in lieu of parking fee) of $4,000 for each parking space as well as an annual payment of $700 for each space.
The developer countered with two alternatives, each with lower dollar amounts. Option one is a PILOP fee of $2,000 per space and an annual fee of $500 per space. Under option two, they would not pay any PILOP fee but would pay an annual fee of $700 for each space.
Haddock acknowledged that the difference "is substantial.''
"I ask the council to give me your thoughts and direction on this so we can determine how we'll move forward,'' he said at the work session, where the council was sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Beverland wasn't the only member concerned about the garage. Council member Linda Norris was also hesitant, saying she was worried about the city "... building a private parking garage with public money.''
However, Mayor Doug Bevis pointed out that the businesses are ready to move into downtown.
"We've got business partners that are ready to deliver,'' he said.
Council member Gabby McGee agreed with Bevis, but said she hopes recruitment of other businesses for downtown will start soon.
"The economy is doing well right now and we don't know how it will be doing in five or 10 years,'' she said. "I think we should capitalize on the movement now.''
In the end, the council reached a consensus to allow Haddock to continue negotiations, with the stipulation that the developers would pay a one-time PILOP fee of $4,000 per parking space and an annual fee of $500 per space.
The council will discuss Market Square and the proposed development agreement again at its Dec. 3 meeting.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.