PINELLAS PARK — More than 12 acres of prime real estate along one of the city's main thoroughfares soon will be the site of a 288-unit gated apartment complex following City Council approval last week.
Atlanta-based apartment developer Wood Partners stands poised to build the complex, which will include a clubhouse with a fitness center, a "resort-style" swimming pool and a dog park on land formerly occupied by Scott Buick at U.S. 19 and 49th Street N.
A convenience store with gas pumps will occupy the southeast corner of the property, which has been vacant since the dealership closed in 2006.
The agreement was a long time in the making, with multiple developers eyeing the triangular-shaped parcel for years.
Nearly a year ago, council members approved a master plan for development of 280 multifamily residential units and a 2,490-square-foot convenience store. Numerous tweaks in the plan, including an increase in the number of units and a decrease in the number of parking spaces, brought the plan back to the council several times, provoking the ire of at least one member.
"I'm going to say yes to this, but I promise you, cross my heart and hope to die right here in this chair, you come back before me, I'm saying no to everything," council member Rick Butler told a consultant who attended the council's May 24 meeting on behalf of the developer.
While not as vehement, Mayor Sandra Bradbury, who at a previous council meeting stated her preference for an earlier version of the plan that would have allowed a mix of retail and residential use, voted against the item.
"It's a commercial piece of property," Bradbury said, expressing concern that an out-of-town management company may not prioritize the development's upkeep. "Apartment complexes are needed in our community, but not on a main thoroughfare."
Community planning director Danny Taylor said the development's unit breakdown — 11 studios, 146 one-bedroom apartments, 119 two-bedroom apartments and 12 three-bedroom apartments — likely will attract recent college graduates, empty-nesters and retirees.
"There is a scarcity of affordable starter homes in Pinellas Park," Taylor said. "People are having to put off buying and rent in the meantime."
City traffic officials estimate the repurposed site could generate more than 3,700 drive-bys a day compared to just over 1,800 per day when the Buick dealership was housed there.
To ease traffic congestion, the developers have agreed to construct a 24-foot wide driveway from U.S. 19 through to the west side of the development to allow access to the gas station from both sides of the property. Additionally, they agreed to install an 8-foot fence as a buffer on the southern property line where the parcel abuts the Crystal Lake Mobile Home Park.
The city has been receiving approximately $17,000 annually in tax revenue on the undeveloped property. With the new apartments, that amount will increase to about $260,000 a year, officials said.