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Dunedin city center ‘Gateway’ project delayed but still very much alive

DUNEDIN — The pandemic did not scare Joseph Kokolakis.

In April 2020, as the pandemic closed down the world, the president of Kokolakis Contracting still requested the construction of an apartment, retail and hotel project in the east of downtown. With one of the most vibrant downtown areas in Tampa Bay, the city is always trying to make the eastern edge, known as the Gateway, more walkable and vibrant.

The city purchased 4.3 vacant acres between Skinner Boulevard, Milwaukee Avenue and Main Street in 2004, but plans fell through for decades, leaving it like an empty jigsaw piece in the otherwise bustling downtown.

Then, the development agreement reached between Kokolakis and the city in December 2020 for 81 apartments, a 79-unit boutique hotel and 17,000 square feet of retail space and a food hall gave further impetus.

Now, we may have to wait a little longer.

This map shows the location of the Gateway Dunedin project, a $30 million development bounded by Main Street, Skinner Boulevard and Milwaukee Avenue. [ PAUL ALEXANDER | Times ]

As it prepared for a June grand opening, Kokolakis sought to add nine more apartments while maintaining the same square footage of the building by downsizing a few two- and three-bedroom units. Late last year, he purchased two plots bordering the site, adding 0.39 acres to the overall footprint.

He calls the change “non-material” because the height, width and style of the apartment structure will remain. But when it comes to city code, just about any change to a development agreement is grounds for having to start the approvals process from scratch.

Kokolakis’ changes must go back before a local planning agency hearing and two city commission meetings, likely exceeding the June 2022 deadline to begin construction in the original development agreement.

On March 10, the City Commission ordered City Manager Jennifer Bramley to resume negotiations with Kokolakis. Before the revised development agreement can be added to the agendas for the hearings, Bramley and Kokolakis must negotiate terms regarding a new deadline to break ground, his payment of an additional $5,000 development fee and other details. .

Since the project was first proposed, the $30 million cost estimate has risen 20% due to inflation during the pandemic, Kokolakis said, making adoption even more critical. prompt for any amendment.

“I don’t want this to drag on,” Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said at the meeting. “I want to see bulldozers in the ground.”

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Kokolakis has lived in Dunedin since 1989, so he said the Gateway project was personal.

A rendering shows a view of the Gateway Dunedin project from Main Street.
A rendering shows a view of the Gateway Dunedin project from Main Street. [ Courtesy of Kokolakis Contracting ]

His office walls are covered with images of dozens of buildings his company has built, such as projects at Tampa International Airport, MacDill Air Force Base and the United States Military Academy at West Point. But about 15 years ago he started working in his hometown, renovating four storefronts on Main Street known as the Commons and bringing in Strachan’s Ice Cream & Desserts to anchor the stretch.

He then redeveloped Stirling Commons on Broadway, incorporating bars and restaurants with a display gallery for artists on the second floor. His company built the high-end Victoria Place apartments and retail outlets on Main Street and the Artisan apartments on Douglas Avenue. He said he was interested in retail chains, but wanted to attract local tenants to such projects as Nature’s Food Patch grocery store and family stores and bars.

“A big part of what we did there was create an environment where our kids would want to come back and live,” said Kokolakis, who has three adult children with his wife.

He saw an opportunity for the gateway after the city’s deal fell through with another developer for the site. The development agreement reached in December 2020 included $359,000 in incentives for Kokolakis, justified by city officials by the $228,000 per year the project is expected to bring in taxes per year for the next decade.

He purchased the former developer’s three plots on the site and later the three city plots, taking possession of the entire 4.3 acres. Late last year, Kokolakis purchased vacant land and a parcel that includes the Soggy Bottom Brewery on the east side of the site, bringing the total footprint to 4.65 acres.

The additional land will allow more space for the project’s hotel service vehicles, without disrupting the brewery. He said the extra square footage would give him the right to build up to 92 apartments per acre, but he was only looking for 90 units so as not to change the building’s height, size or style from the original. initial development agreement.

The project’s 79-room Edin Hotel is expected to have 3,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a restaurant and terrace bar.

A rendering shows the hotel entrance for the long-awaited Gateway Dunedin project.
A rendering shows the hotel entrance for the long-awaited Gateway Dunedin project. [ Courtesy of Kokolakis Contracting ]

The 90 luxury apartments on offer will include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 per month, according to real estate broker Will Kochenour III of Santek Management. The Artisan House apartments will include a 3,000 square foot restaurant with terrace and 12,000 square feet of micro-restaurants and retail outlets overlooking a grand promenade along Main Street.

Kokolakis will retain an open space at the western end of the project as a small public park.

“The goal is to create a walkable downtown that stretches from the front door to the marina” to the west, Kokolakis said.

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