This plaza owned by Oldsmar developer Bruce Swain is the key to the City’s proposed $50 million Market Square project.
The fate of Oldsmar’s Market Square project is resting on one key piece of land, and if the piece doesn’t fall into place soon, it could cause the current version of the project to collapse.
That was the result of a discussion Tuesday night on an CRA agenda item that asked the City Council to consider amending the project’s Memorandum of Understanding to extend the July 27 deadline to have a development agreement in place.
The property in question is a small plaza located on the corner of Commerce Street and Fairfield Street. Local developer Bruce Swain owns the parcel, which has suddenly become the most critical component of the City’s proposed $50 million mixed-used development to be built next to Oldsmar City Hall.
During the discussion Stephen Grimme, the president of Smith Equity Builders who has been tasked with developing the project, informed the council that securing the small piece of property in the middle of the site is the key to moving forward.
“We’ve had a little hiccup with Mr. Swain.” Grimme said. “I met with him this morning and I think I understand what he wants and I believe I can get him what he wants.”
What Swain wants, the council recently learned, is considerably more than the property is valued at.
A recent appraisal put the property’s value at $529,000. Grimme offered $800,000 for it early on when it became apparent Swain didn’t want to invest in the project.
But Swain is asking for just over $1 million for the land, a price some city officials said they refuse to pay.
This plaza owned buy Oldsmar developer Bruce Swain is the key to the City’s proposed $50 million Market Square project.
“I don’t think the City wants to pay one million for that building,” Mayor Doug Bevis said.
“I would never vote to spend taxpayers dollars that much over the appraised value,” council member Linda Foley Norris said.
Due to this new development, some officials said it was time to let the MOU expire and cut ties with Smith Equity Builders.
“I don’t think we should expend this agreement, I think we should let it expire,” council member Eric Seidel said.
“We all agree we’re not going to go pay double the appraised value, and I think if you asked our staff, who spent a lot of time working on this, they have no faith this is going to happen,” he added “I think we were that close, we had everything but that one piece.”
Mayor Bevis concurred.
“I agree with a lot of what Eric said. I’m not interested in extending it,” he said.
Despite the opposition, council members Norris, Dan Saracki and Vice-Mayor Gabby McGee didn’t want to give up on Grimme just yet.
Smith Equity Builders president Stephen Grimme speaks to the Oldsmar City Council on Tuesday night.
“If we’re this close…I don’t see harm in giving a little bit of an extension, not a big extension,” Norris said.
Grimme assured the Council he could come to an agreement with Swain in a couple of weeks.
“How much time do I need to get Mr. Swain under agreement? I’m hoping I can have him under some sort of an agreement in a week, it may take a couple weeks,” he said. “Certainly by the 21st, which is your next meeting, I’ll think certainly I should have an update that’s a lot more solid on what the terms are.”
Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to consider extending amending the MOU and extending the development agreement deadline by 30-60 days at its next meeting on July 21, with Seidel voicing the nay vote.
Afterwards, Mayor Bevis expressed frustration with the progress on the project so far.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen at the next meeting and in the next two weeks,” Bevis told Oldsmar Connect. “But this isn’t coming together like we thought.”
“I’m not blaming anybody. I just feel like we’ve gone backwards since January,” he added, noting that he still believes the project will still get done.
“I think the vision is still there for Market Square,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t want the project. We all want the project. But we want it done right.”