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New developments on development!

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image The Preserve at Alafia is one of the few large projects in South County that moved along right on schedule despite the slump in the economy. Penny Fletcher Photo

Updates on developments in South County.


SOUTH COUNTY — So many readers have emailed and called asking for updates on developments I’ve written about during the past months that I managed to ferret out as much new information as is possible to report.

As it turns out, not much is happening on most of the projects you’ve asked about. One, however, is already in full swing and the same developers are planning another large project in Gibsonton to follow later this year. Here are the updates as of Friday, June 15.

ºSouthshore Commons — This is the mall planned for the Intersection of Interstate 75 and Big Bend Road in Riverview that, if all goes as planned, will be larger than Brandon’s Westfield Mall.

Jay Miller, senior vice president at Equity Inc.’s Tampa office is the spokesman for this.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll get to start construction in 2013 but I can’t say exactly when at this stage,” Miller said in a telephone interview June 15. “We still need a certain number of commitments before we can start.”

The master plan for Southshore Commons, as reported twice in The Observer News in the summer of 2011 and early 2012, includes 1,000,000 square feet of retail space, 490,000 square feet of office space and 250 hotel rooms.

These plans still stand, although no names of shops and restaurants already signed on  have been released. This project is running approximately two years behind the original schedule but developers say they have not changed their plans.

“We can’t say which stores or restaurants will be there yet because things are still changing and contracts are pending,” Miller added. “But once we build, there will be shopping and entertainment venues like never before in this area and the Town Center style in which it is being built will create a gathering place for the community.” 

ºFreedom Harbor — This is the large sportsplex, medical facility and vacation spot planned adjacent to Vance Vogel Park in Gibsonton.

Rich Mozdzer, developer, and one of the partners of Freedom Harbor, said there have been no new developments to report since the last news story was written about nine months ago.

“We’re still in the final stages of the planning process,” Mozdzer said in an email June 14. At this point, Mozdzer said they have applied for a modification to the planned development which should take about 8 to 10 months.

Freedom Harbor is the project featuring a large sportsplex that is planned as both a training ground for future Olympians in several sports and a center for residents and tourists to learn and play sports of all kinds.

Several famous sports figures have been interviewed in connection with this project in the past, and are still in place to teach their respective sport once the project moves forward, Mozdzer said.

Ice skating will be a main feature, with hockey taught by former National Hockey League defense player and former member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stan Neckar. Figure skating will be overseen by Michael Nemec, six times Australian ice skating pairs champion and former Olympian.  

Many other sports are also being planned and the National Floorboard Association has written a letter saying it may relocate its events to that location if the project goes as expected.

Freedom Harbor also plans a medical center, assisted care facility, resort vacation area and more, to be built in three phases.

“We’re still in Phase I,” Mozdzer reported last week. Looking back on predictions made by partners in the venture including Mozdzer in former news stories, the project is already about two years behind schedule. But Mozdzer said definitely not to count it out.

Phase I is permitting and site work, construction of the main Sportsplex building, including a hotel and restaurant, a 50,000-square-foot medical center and up to 100 town homes. Phase II is planned to have 30 vacation units and Phases III and IV show more vacation units, which will be dictated by pre-construction demand and sales.

ºThe Preserve at Alafia, the one project that moved along right on schedule with its first phase, which was building upscale rental apartments with many amenities, held a Grand Opening in 2011 as it continued to build. The Preserve at Alafia, located at 10110 Gibsonton Drive, now has one, two and three bedroom apartments rented, many of which overlook the Alafia River. Amenities include a waterfront pool and spa, lounge area, a yoga pavilion, dock, kayak and canoes and a fitness center.

Manager Wendy Milenkevich escorted me to look at the buildings and grounds, which are owned by The Garrison Group, locally represented by Dr. Alex Gianni.

This project is adjacent to an 80-acre nature preserve giving the impression of a country setting with urban conveniences.

Although originally reported in The Observer News and Riverview Current that the Preserve at Alafia would be town homes, dramatic changes in area demographics showed the owners a tremendous need for rentals instead and they were able to change their plans quickly enough to meet demand.

Alafia Crossings, another project owned by The Garrison Group, has not yet broken ground but is right on schedule. It was originally set to follow the opening and renting of The Preserve at Alafia, next to which it will be built. This project will include a restaurant and hotel, Milenkevich said.  No date has yet been set for its groundbreaking.

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