Earlier this week the Safety Harbor City Commission approved the site plan for a mixed-use project for a parcel of land between Second and Third avenues south, continuing a recent development boom in the city, specifically in the downtown district.
The proposed Harbor Pointe West complex from applicant Olympia Development Group would feature residential and commercial space, including four semi-detached townhomes and a four-story structure with 3,100-sq.-ft. of commercial/retail space topped by 12 condos.
The project was initially proposed in 2003 as part of the neighboring Harbour Pointe Complex and Harbor Pointe Village townhome development across the street, but that original site plan lapsed and a revised, separate plan was brought before the Planning and Zoning board in December.
In seeking approval from the commission on Tuesday, January 16, representatives for the applicant noted the time and effort devoted to making sure the purpose and design of Harbor Pointe West meshed with city leaders’ vision for the downtown district.
“We believe we have brought an iconic project before you tonight,” Housh Ghovaee, CEO of Northside Engineering said, adding “this has been in the making for a long time.”
“We wanted to make sure our vision was consistent with leadership…and the overall future of this town.”
Ghovee went on to outline key facets of the project, noting they went with a smaller scale development with inviting features, including wide sidewalks and deep setbacks for the commercial space to help encourage pedestrian interaction.
“We’ve designed a wonderful building,” he said. “This is not something that was designed overnight.”
According to the details of the site plan, the two-story townhomes, or “twin villas” as Ghovee referred to them, would have a maximum height of 36 feet and feature a two-car garage and driveways fronting Second Street South, which formerly acted as an alleyway for the recently built homes that front Iron Age Street.
A parking lot and dumpster area would separate the townhomes from the mixed-use building, a proposed 44-foot-8-inch high structure facing Second Avenue South featuring 3,180-square-feet of retail/commercial space on the ground floor and 12 condos above.
The entrance to the retail space would be set back from the overhanging condo units, according to Ghovee.
Additional terms of the plan call for rerouting Second Street South so the flow of traffic runs from east to west rather than west to east; replacing all removed trees and adding landscaping to the property; and utilizing a block wall, rather than a vinyl fence, for a perimeter buffer.
The proposal also contained a request for a reduction in the depth of two driveway parking spaces from 20 feet to 18 feet as well a reduction in the total number of required spots for the development from 36 to 33.
The applicant agreed to either pay a parking fee in lieu of $22,000 or find suitable substitute parking nearby, per city code, as well as conduct a traffic study.
Upon hearing the details of the project, the commissioners questioned certain elements of the plan, including the parking situation and the overall height of the buildings in relation to surrounding structures.
Commissioner Andy Zodrow inquired about the height of the Harbor Pointe building at 100 Main Street.
“I believe it’s roughly 42 or 43 feet to the flat roof,” City Manager Matt Spoor replied, noting the architectural feature atop the roof was probably about 10 feet higher.
“So, this building is no higher?” Zodrow asked of the mixed-use structure, to which Spoor replied, “no.”
Zodrow also noted he would rather see the applicant pay the in-lieu parking fee rather than utilize offsite spaces, and when it came time to take public comment, most focused on the parking and potential traffic congestion issues.
“It’s a pretty project, and I’d love to get some neighbors,” Iron Age resident Diane Bouida said.
“But I’m a little concerned….a little worried (about the traffic)” she added, a thought shared by former City Commissioner Janet Hooper and at least three other residents who spoke.
Bouida also noted the Harbor Point West project would coincide with the nearby townhome work as well as the Bay to Bay development one block away, creating a potential traffic nightmare.
However, Olympia president and CEO Bill Touloumis assured residents the projects would not all overlap.
“This project is not going to start tomorrow,” Touloumis, who also owns the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa as well as the 100 Main building and Harbor Point Village, said. “There are not going to be three or four projects under construction in the same location.
“By the time we start, the condo building is going to be finished.”
Touloumis also noted the completion of the village project it’s going to free about 20 parking spaces which have been dedicated to the staging for the project.
“We fought hard for this project way back when,” he said, noting the “Starbucks building” has been the main attraction for the downtown district since it was built just over a decade ago.
“This project which we are proposing is in fact a continuation in concept.”
Following the remarks the commission voted on the plan, and it passed unanimously, 4-0. (Note:Mayor Joe Ayoub recused himself from voting on the project due to him living within 500 feet of the proposed development.)
“It’s a pretty intense development…and I have some concerns about the traffic and parking,” Zodrow said.
“But I can’t find a justifiable reason to say ‘no’ to this project.”
Merz agreed, and Vice-Mayor Carlos Diaz, who suggested adding speed bumps on Second Street South said he was “very pleased with the project.”
Though he was precluded from voting, Mayor Ayoub shared his thoughts about the city’s latest development, which can be seen his front door, after the meeting.
“Although I was not able to vote on this project due to my proximity to it I think the Harbor Point West project is going to do a great deal to enhance our city and help to bring some new energy and people to our downtown,” he said via email.
“I fully understand the concerns from some of our residents about congestion and we as a city will remain fully committed to addressing this.”
With Harbor Pointe West project set to join the nearby Bay to Bay development as well as other projects that have been greenlit by the commission in the past few months, the mayor said the new developments represent positive signs for the city.
“There have been several new development projects that have been approved over the last year, which just goes to show how desirable and attractive our town is,” Ayoub wrote.
“The good news is that these projects have been highly scrutinized to make sure that they are consistent with our vision for keeping the small town charm and they will fit nicely in with their surroundings.”
- Several new developments could be coming to Safety Harbor in 2018
- SHCC approves Main Street mixed-use project site plan, development agreement
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