TARPON SPRINGS — On Dec. 10, the Meres Boulevard extension officially opened to through traffic, ending a project that was more than a decade in the making.
“I’m glad it’s finally finished,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said by phone a few days later. “This is some-thing we’ve been waiting for a long time.”
Plans for the extension, a half-mile road connecting South Pinellas Avenue to U.S. Highway 19, had been in the works for years, but it wasn’t until developers for the nearby Icaria on Pinellas apartment complex started their project in 2018 that the vital connecting road began to become a reality.
However, during a groundbreaking ceremony in January, Alahouzos informed the principals from DDA Development that the complex would not be cleared for occupancy until the Meres work was complete, a condition of the original development agreement. And while the project was expected to take six months, a combination of the coronavirus as well as voids found in the soil led to unforeseen delays and forced DDA to ask city commissioners for temporary certificates of occupancy until the work could be completed — a request the board denied.
“I sympathize with the developer that he has two buildings ready and he’s going to have 102 units that he can actually rent,” Alahouzos said in August. “But my concern is if Meres is not completed, with 102 units we can have up to 200 cars, so that’s going to be additional traffic on South Pinellas Avenue. … So, I would not agree to give them the temporary COs that they requested.”
The impasse led DDA to threaten to file a lawsuit to recoup costs the developer had incurred above and beyond the agreed upon amount, and with prospective tenants left hanging, the tension surrounding the situation was palpable.
Thankfully, the road was completed several weeks later to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
“Several times (DDA) requested the apartments to be opened, but I put my foot down and said not until the road is finished,” Alahouzos said. “Now it’s finished, and I feel good it’s finished. I made a promise to the people this would happen, and I feel good I fulfilled my promise.”
Alahouzos added that although the road “has not been classified as an emergency exit, it’s another way to evacuate if you have to and it will help traffic on South Pinellas Avenue and other roads in the area.”
When asked for comment about the Meres project’s completion, DDA principal Bowen Arnold said via email, “Congratulations to the City of Tarpon Springs for getting the road open, we think this will be a great addition for the city and for our residents at Icaria on Pinellas.”