BY MARK YOUNG / PALMETTO
Development in north Palmetto continues to grow with a new 140-room hotel, restaurant and mini-storage facility being planned as part of the same project at 1550 U.S. 301 N.
New development surrounding the 7.5 acres includes the city’s largest subdivision, Sanctuary Cove, currently under construction on 211 acres consisting of 176 new homes, and nearby will be the new Detwiler’s Farm Market location, which will be its largest site at 50,000 square feet.
The city is looking to clear a few zoning hurdles before design of the project begins. However, the owner, 301 North LLC, is in negotiations with Starbucks, First Watch and Geckos Grill & Pub as potential eateries for the site, as well as a national chain for the mini-storage site.
Palmetto Development Services Director Karla Owens did not name the hotelier, but indicated Extended Stay America, with 625 locations across America, is the likely chain interested in the site.
The vacant acreage was purchased by 301 North LLC in 2005 for $2.6 million at the peak of the real estate bubble, which began to burst the following year. A project planned 12 years ago fell victim to the Great Recession and never went forward. The latest appraisal, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office website, lists the value at $812,180.
At the time, the city annexed the property at the new owner’s request, but because a general development plan was never submitted, it has sat without a zoning designation since the annexation.
Owens was directed Monday to begin working on the acreage’s designation, which will be commercial general. Once that hurdle is cleared, the developer can begin to work on and eventually submit a general development plan featuring design and potentially naming the businesses that ultimately will locate to the site as part of the overall project.
City attorney Mark Barnebey said Monday’s approval was only for the zoning request, which the city initiated, and not an approval of the project, which will come back to the commission when ready. Owens said the city initiated the zoning request, “Because this is something the city should have followed up on 12 years ago.”
MANATEE COUNTY — To encourage more affordable housing, Manatee County is greatly expanding its effort to subsidize upfront costs for developers.
On Tuesday, the commission unanimously adopted the new “Livable Manatee Incentive Program.”
Previously, the county would pay impact fees required on the new construction of single-family homes that meet affordable housing criteria.
The new program calls for the county to pick up the costs of county impact fees — used for roads, parks and other infrastructure associated with growth — school impact fees and water and sewer connection fees for single-family home subdivisions as well as multi-family rental complexes that are priced for working families.
Geri Lopez, the county’s director of redevelopment and economic opportunity, said the incentives will save developers about $15,000 on a single-family home and $8,500 on a multi-family rental unit.
The county expects to budget $568,037 annually for the program.
Rental complexes will be required to be within a quarter mile of a bus stop and must have at least 25 percent affordable housing. Rents must be set according to criteria by the Florida Housing Finance Corp.
By Dale White
PORT MANATEE — Berth 9 just got bigger, better and a little bit deeper.
On Thursday, Port Manatee’s governing board held a ceremony to celebrate a $10.3 million reconstruction.
The project took 18 months to complete and created 250 construction-related jobs. Three-quarters of the funding came from a Florida Department of Transportation grant. The remainder was provided by the Manatee County Port Authority, which consists of county commissioners.
In the process, the 40-year-old berth was completely rebuilt to improve safety standards and accommodate larger cargo ships. The berth is now 40 feet deep and can handle uniform loads of up to 1,000 pounds per square foot.
Port Manatee executive director Carlos Buqueras compared the renovation to a longer runway that can handle larger planes.
Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said “anytime we can improve our infrastructure or our services here at the port, it’s a great plus. All the ships that come in, we don’t want to put them in harm’s way of being damaged, so it makes us more competitive with other ports in the state of Florida.”
There are 15 deepwater ports in Florida, but Port Manatee is the closest to the Panama Canal, giving it a leg up for businesses that wish to ship products from the Pacific Ocean.
Port Manatee also is the closest port to the Port of Mariel in Havana.
But the potential for more trade with Cuba remains murky. In Miami on Thursday, President Donald Trump was expected to announce a dramatic rollback of former President Barack Obama’s more open relations with Cuba, though details reportedly have not been finalized.
Baugh said that she’s willing to work with Cuba, should the opportunity arise.
“The bottom line is we’re a business,” Baugh said. “So, if the trade opened up, we would’ve been first in line to work with Cuba. However, there are obviously things to take into consideration right now. We don’t know what’s going to be happening in Washington.”
If open trade does happen, it won’t be the port that decides to do business with Cuba.
“We don’t trade with Cuba, our customers trade with Cuba,” Buqueras said. “So we’re just like an airport — we don’t own the planes, we don’t own the passengers, we don’t own the cargo. The cargo is private to private.”
But the port doesn’t need Cuban trade to remain relevant. Some studies have shown the port has a $2.3 billion annual impact on the area, with more than 24,000 jobs stemming from its operations.
“The port, if you think about it, is a lifeline. That’s where a lot of business comes in — a lot of the things that Manatee County and the surrounding counties need to grow and sustain themselves,” Baugh said.
Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who helped negotiate money for the reconstruction project, reiterated the importance of Port Manatee.
“We have the lowest unemployment numbers since 2007, and that’s in large part due to our friends at the port,” Boyd said. “We think it’s the best port in the state of Florida and probably in the Southeast and maybe even beyond.”
Buqueras said continued growth in the state’s population and economy should continue to fuel Port Manatee’s growth and the nearby Port of Tampa.
“Tampa and us will still have a hard time even accommodating the business that’s coming.”