Market Square Deal Dead, But Not Buried

The latest version of Oldsmar's Market Square project was scrapped after a developer failed to meet a deadline.

The latest version of Oldsmar’s Market Square project was scrapped after a developer failed to meet a deadline.

With the deadline fast approaching to have a development agreement in place for the current version of the Market Square project, the Oldsmar City Council decided to cut ties with the developer who was tasked with delivering the $50 million mixed-use complex next to City Hall.

In voting unanimously against extending the deadline on Tuesday night, the five council members praised Stephen Grimme’s efforts in trying to get a deal done, and they assured residents that despite the setback, the project is not dead.

But Grimme’s inability to get local broker Bruce Swain to sell his small parcel of property located in the heart of the development site led to the decision to nix the current version of the plan.

“The project has gone backwards since we first envisioned it,” Council member Eric Seidel said. “I don’t know if Steve could’ve worked any harder to bring it together…but the reality is we’re not going to be able to do this project until that property is secured.”

“Personally, I’m disappointed,” Council member Dan Saracki said. “I wanted to see this project move forward, and I’m disappointed it’s falling apart.”

Bruce Swain's property is in the heart of Oldsmar's proposed $50 Market Square project.

Bruce Swain’s property is in the heart of Oldsmar’s proposed $50 Market Square project.

After the City signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Grimme’s company, Smith Equity Builders, back in February, both parties agreed to have a development agreement in place by July 27.

But after Grimme set up shop in town and met with representatives of various potential development partners, officials began to get discouraged after learning Swain had rejected an offer of $800,000 for his property.

The lot, which sits at the intersection of Fairfield and Commerce Streets and fronts Tampa Road, was recently appraised at $529,000, and Swain is reportedly asking for $1 million dollars for the land.

“We need to get Mr. Swain to do the right thing — sell for too much money,” Grimme told the council on Tuesday in attempt to salvage the agreement.

“This is the strategy,” he added. “It will work. Just give me time.”

But none of the council members were on board with that plan.

Developer Stephen Grimme pleads his case for continuing the Market Square project.

Developer Stephen Grimme pleads his case for continuing the Market Square project.

“I don’t think the property is worth a million dollars,” Saracki said.

“We’re not going to pay that, and he knows it,” Council member Linda Foley Norris said.

After hearing the council’s opinions, Mayor Doug Bevis added his final thoughts on the matter

“I want to thank Steve for his efforts,” he said. “No one questions his passion for this project.”

“This was one option to look at, and I think there are other options we can look at. But if we extend the MOU, then we’re running out of time to explore those options.”

Smith Equity Builders President Stephen Grimme. (File photo)

Smith Equity Builders President Stephen Grimme. (File photo)

After the council voted unanimously not to extend the deadline, effectively ending its arrangement with Smith Equity, Grimme quickly left the council chambers.

Oldsmar Connect caught up with the developer, and he briefly spoke about the decision.

“I think it’s a sad day for the City of Oldsmar,” he said. “I’m an incredible project delivery guy, and I want to be where people want me.”

UPDATE: Tuesday evening, Grimme sent an email to Swain and City officials stating his opinion of Swain’s refusal to hold up his end of the deal.

“Your position has affected my team, and the perception of the City in the development community, and I deem what has transpired between you and the City, and the steps and actions of all the parties, as tortuous interference and complete disregard for their role in a partnership with SEB in a force majeure situation,” Grimme wrote.

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3 Comments
  1. Jeff Willett 8 months ago
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