BayCare backs out of Safety Harbor office park project

BayCare Heath Systems reportedly backed out an agreement to build an office park similar to this on on Drew St, in Safety Harbor.

BayCare was planning to build an office park similar to this one in Safety Harbor.

Tampa Bay area health care giant BayCare Health Systems has reportedly backed out of an agreement with the City of Safety Harbor to build an office park in town.

The project, which called for a 120,000-sq-ft office park to be built on 16 acres of land formerly occupied by the Firmenich Citrus plant, had received approval from the Safety Harbor City Commission in December, and a public hearing item was scheduled on Monday night’s agenda to discuss the details of the agreement.

Now, those discussions are off the table.

“We learned this afternoon that BayCare withdrew their applications for the development agreement, the site plan, and the conditional use application for the project,” Mayor Andy Steingold told Safety Harbor Connect on Friday.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

“The city staff had put a lot of work into the project, and the commission was pretty receptive to it,” he continued. “We’re saddened by the last minute withdrawal, because we could see a good partnership with BayCare. But unfortunately, it didn’t work out. Sometimes, business is business.”

Shortly before Christmas, representatives from BayCare, “a leading nonprofit health care system that provides services at 14 hospitals and hundreds of other locations throughout the Tampa Bay area,” lauded the deal, which was expected to bring more than 300 jobs to the city.

“I think it’s great,” BayCare Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Corrigan told Safety Harbor Connect following the commission’s second, and final, approval of the deal on December 21. “We’ve really enjoyed working with the city.”

“We’ve also met with residents, and the point we made is, we live here, we’re residents here, and we want to be partners. If you live there, you feel the same way.”

Two and a half months later, BayCare officials decided to dissolve the partnership, at least for now.

A screenshot of the site plan BayCare presented for development of part of the Firmenich property.

A screenshot of the site plan BayCare presented in December 2015 for the development of a 120,000-sq.-ft. office park on the Firmenich property.

“They pulled the application, so they would have to reapply and start from scratch if they wanted to redo the deal,” Mayor Steingold explained.

Because they were not informed as to the reason for BayCare’s withdrawal, city officials said they were unaware of the cause of the deal’s collapse.

However, process of elimination led to speculation that it had something to do with the purchase agreement between the health care provider and the property owner.

“It wasn’t anything the City or the residents did,” the mayor said.

The news, coming on the heels of the rejection of a proposed apartment complex on the Firmenich property in 2013, has left Safety Harbor officials feeling blindsided.

“The city’s elected leaders and staff have been working on the redevelopment of this site for over three years,” City Manager Matt Spoor wrote. “We were close to finalizing a project that had the support of the surrounding residents.”

“It’s extremely frustrating.”

Note: Due to this news breaking late Friday afternoon, Safety Harbor Connect was unable to reach representatives of BayCare for comment. We will have more on this story next week.

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