Proposals were submitted from two developers in 1999 for 100 townhomes to be built along Cleveland Street from east of Myrtle Avenue and south to Pierce Street. Centex Corporation, a billion dollar company based in Dallas, Texas, with contracts nationwide, submitted plans. The Balk Company, Inc., recommended by Sarasota officials, also sought the contract. The company had 35 yrs. of experience in multi-family units in the Sarasota area.
The townhomes were to be done in conjunction with the Town Lake Project, a 4-acre retention pond and public park with waterfall, picnic tables, benches and walking path. The drainage project was designed to alleviate downtown flooding, collect runoff from a 100-acre basin and cleanse polluted water before emptying into Clearwater Harbor.
The City Commission accepted the Balk Company's bid. Building permits were issued in December 2002, and the 5.4 acres on Cleveland Street would be purchased from the city for $1.8-mil in three stages. The developer agreed to pay $130,000 for soil remediation costs and $160,000 to refill the removal of tons of tainted soil from the old Dimmitt Chevrolet dealership. Incentives from the city included $387,000 in building permit and impact fees plus $936,000 in state and federal Brownfields Program dollars for decontamination of the area.
Because of the Mediterranean Revival style, Bruce Balk, architect, named the development Mediterranean Village in the Park. The 100 units ranged from about 1,200 to 1,600 square feet with 2 or 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, walled-in gardens and single car garages. The townhomes surrounding the lake would have roof gardens. A community swimming pool and clubhouse were included. Prices were from approximately $141,800 to $201,800 per unit. The $16.4 project was to be completed in three years and garner $225,000 in various city taxes.
Mediterranean Village was to be the centerpiece that would encourage other builders to invest in the revitalization of downtown Clearwater. In September 2003 and eighteen months from the approval date, construction was lagging a year behind schedule. Balk said approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) caused the delay and not construction. The scarcity of building materials - dry wall, plywood and roof tiles - was a factor..
City officials were disappointed with the delay. Taxpayers considered the plain project cramped and aesthetically unappealing. Buildings had no setback from the sidewalk. There were no windows on the street. To the objections, Balk replied that he did not think the design was plain. Future landscaping was planned as a buffer to the sidewalk. Windows were not needed on busy Cleveland Street. He further stated "91 of the 100 units were spoken for."
The village was to be developed in three stages. The city had the option to repurchase the land if deadlines were missed. To date, 15 townhomes on Padua Lane have been completed in Stage I. Homeowners occupy some of the units, and others are leased. Some are empty and have For Rent signs in front of them. The Sales and Construction offices are housed in the future clubhouse, and there is no pool.
Buyers paid hundreds of dollars for upgrades, which have not been installed yet. Upstairs showers leaked to the ceilings below them. Street lamps did not work leaving the lane dark. Sliding glass doors did not keep out street noise. Landscaping has not been done along the sidewalk.
Residents, who work downtown, find the location convenient and purchase prices fair. All agree that the park is attractive and a pleasant place to walk or bicycle. But, owners would like the upgrades, the clubhouse, the pool and the landscaped buffer that were promised. Mr. Balk said, "The 'punch list' will be completed as soon as possible. The sidewalk buffer has to be approved by Florida Department of Transportation. Cleveland Street is SR 60."
The Assistant Director of Public Communications stated, "I talked with Planning and Economic Development and now have the answers to the status of the Mediterranean Village project. Phase (Stage) I, the phase next to Fiore's is substantially complete. As far as Phase (Stage) II goes, the Community Redevelopment Agency still owns the property. We are waiting for environmental clearance from FDEP. We anticipate this approval from FDEP this spring (April or May)."
What about Stage II and Stage III? In a phone interview this week, Bruce Balk said, "After the clearance is received, land will be purchased for Stage II. Phase 1 of the second stage will consist of 21 units - 5 on the lakefront. Phase 2 has 28 units - 6 on the water. Stage 3 will have 10 units on Park Street and 26 on Ewing Avenue."
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