Developer fields questions about proposed mixed-use complex in downtown Safety Harbor

Joe Faw, co-owner of Bay to Bay Properties, hosted a public meeting on Tuesay, Sept. 19, to discuss a mixed-use project he has proposed for downtown Safety Harbor.

Joe Faw knows what he’s up against in trying to build a mixed-use development in downtown Safety Harbor.

As he noted during a public meeting held at the museum on Tuesday, there hasn’t been a new building constructed on Main Street in more than a decade, and when the Harbour Pointe complex was built at 100 Main Street, there were many vocal opponents of that project.

But when the Safety Harbor resident and co-owner of local development company Bay to Bay Properties decided he needed a new headquarters for his rapidly growing firm, he was thrilled to learn the City was looking to boost the stagnant downtown economy and there was a suitable piece of property available.

“I had looked at this property in the past, as well as others recently at Rocky Point and on Gulf to Bay (Boulevard),” Faw told an audience of 50 that gathered at the museum.

“But when we learned this property was available again, it presented the opportunity for us to stay here in town.”

Faw then went on to describe the parameters of his project, which calls for two buildings to be constructed on the one-acre parcel at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue North: one commercial unit roughly 22,000 square feet facing Main Street that would house the B2B offices on the top two floors with 6,600 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, and another residential structure in the rear that would feature up to 24 luxury apartments.

A proposed mixed use development would see two buildings consisting of residential, retail and office space built on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Main Street and Second Avenue North. This rendering shows the proposed commercial building that would face Main Street. (Credit: Bay to Bay Properties)

He explained the complex would utilize a West Indies architectural style, with open spaces, pop-out features and wide patios, and would be set back from the street more than City code calls for. He said there would be 30 on-site parking spaces as well as an additional 30 street spots that would be available for public use.

Faw also noted the buildings would be lower in height than the code allows, with the commercial structure coming in at 40-feet high and the residential building 35 feet.

“Both buildings would be lower in height than what’s allowed by code,” Faw said, adding they didn’t want the buildings to “look like a skyscraper” or loom over the residential homes at the rear of the property on Second Street North.

A proposed mixed use development would see two buildings consisting of residential, retail and office space built on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Main Street and Second Avenue North. This rendering shows the proposed residential building that would be located at the back of the property. (Credit: Bay to Bay Properties)

After the introductory comments, Faw fielded questions from the audience, which ranged from ridiculous (will there be a pool?) to pointed.

“You had said there would be shops, or retail, for a period of time, and your reasoning behind that is so downtown would be vibrant and walkable, et cetera,” Safety Harbor resident Jennifer Michael said. “But you left an opening there that after a period of time, it’s open up to office buildings. So, my first question is, how many square feet will Bay to Bay have…and secondly, what are the conditions moving it from retail to office space?”

Faw replied that according to the terms of the development agreement that are being discussed with City officials, they decided to leave a window open for restaurant or retail businesses to inhabit the space without fear it will be home to another lawyer, doctor or insurance office in the heart of Main Street.

Bay to Bay Properties co-owner Joe Faw engages in a dialog with Safety Harbor resident Jennifer Michael during a public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.

“In the development agreement, there’s concessions being made by both parties,” he said. “There’s a limited amount of professional office on the first floor, and that would be for a period of no less than five years, and I believe the City and the commission’s intention on that is to encourage something other than office even though that is considered a commercial use.”

When Michael, who also said the renderings of the project “look like something you would see on the side of a highway in Orlando like a strip mall,” pressed the developer about what could happen after five years, Faw conceded “I guess you could say that the entire thing could be office…but we want something more than office down there.”

But it could be?” Michael shot back.

“Yes,” Faw said.

Other comments were predominantly supportive.

Sue Caisse said she “thoroughly endorsed this project” and Brigitte Davey stated, “I think it’s a great idea to get rid of that crummy corner of Main Street,” a remark that drew hearty applause.

When Mick Elliot asked why they chose not to build the project out to its maximum capabilities, Faw had a response that is sure to please even the staunchest anti-development advocates.

“We could probably do a lot better financially if we did do it that way,” he said. “But our intention is to try and do something that we think would be well received and compatible.

Safety Harbor residents review the renderings of a proposed mixed-use development in downtown Safety Harbor during a public meeting on Sept. 19, 2017.

“I’m not sure if that would be exactly what we think would be the right fit, but to your point we would be allowed to do it. We’re trying to do something in the middle and have a balanced approach towards this.”

As the one-hour meeting wrapped up, Faw said the next step is to bring the site plan to the City for review on Friday, with an eye towards presenting their plan to the Planning and Zoning Board in November followed by a public meeting before the City Commission in December.

Faw said if all goes well they could begin construction on the project in the late first quarter or early second quarter of next year, and he anticipated a 10-12 month build time for the structures, not including the retail space layout.

Afterwards, Faw told Safety Harbor Connect how he felt the meeting went.

Bay to Bay Properties co-owner Joe Faw.

“I think it went well,” he said. “I thought it was well received. I appreciate all the comments, and I was pleased with the respect and professionalism.”

He also stated he believes having an open dialog with residents is key to getting a project like this off the ground in town.

“We’re aware that one-hundred percent of the people are not going to agree with one-hundred percent of the plan. But I think it’s important to have healthy discussions,” he said.

“We’re trying to do everything in the best interests of the community.”

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