Nonprofit to bid for Georgetown site
May 18, 2009
A plan to turn a large swath of land off West Shore Boulevard into a public park or nature preserve is a step closer to becoming a reality.
Earlier this year, Mayor Pam Iorio asked the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to put together a proposal to buy 160 acres off West Shore where the former Georgetown Apartments stood.
This week, the nonprofit trust is expected to submit a bid to Bank of America to purchase the property. If accepted, the trust and its partners, DeBartolo Development and Christian Tyler Properties, would redevelop about half the property as housing.
The other half, roughly 80 acres, would be purchased though Hillsborough County's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program and preserved as open space.
Details of the plan, including the proposed purchase price, are being worked out.
Greg Chelius, director of the trust's Florida operations, said the decline in property values has become a "green lining" for conservationists, who have been snapping up foreclosed properties at discounted costs.
He said the Georgetown property, which is in foreclosure, is considered prime waterfront real estate.
"A couple of years ago we would have never had an opportunity like this," Chelius said.
The San Francisco-based trust has a successful track record of helping communities across the country conserve strategic land for public use, he said.
Iorio sees the arrangement as an opportunity to preserve more open space. While South Tampa is bounded by water on three sides, much of the coastline is private property.
The Motta Group of Fort Lauderdale, which bought the property for $125 million in 2005, planned to replace the 600-unit apartment complex with 1,200 homes. But the slumping real estate market killed those plans. The property is now a ghost town of abandoned buildings and empty streets.
Bank of America, which holds the mortgage to the property, plans to put it on the market.
Using ELAPP funds would require approval from the Hillsborough County Commission.
ELAPP is funded by county property taxes. Since being created two decades ago, the program has preserved nearly 45,000 acres of mangrove-lined shoreline, river swamp, wetlands and lakes, most in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
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