Pinellas News

Tarpon to renovate former nursing home site, Sponge Docks

TARPON SPRINGS - The city will move forward with gauging interest from potential buyers in its plan to sell the site of a long-vacant former nursing home. Tarpon Springs commissioners voted unanimously last month to issue formal requests for proposals for the rundown property at 501 S. Walton Ave. The city previously issued a request for letters of interest in mid-February. That action attracted three responses from Burnard Group, in New Port Richey; Housing Trust Group LLC, in West Palm Beach; and John Talat Karim Muhammad, in Los Angeles. “We’ve gotten some interest that is very viable,” said City Manager Mark LeCouris. “Because of that, it’s time to go out and get formal proposals.”
Mayor David Archie and Commissioner Townsend Tarapani supported seeking proposals but urged caution, given the importance of the property. “I wholeheartedly support moving forward,” Tarapani said. “But as we do move forward and we do get the proposals for the project, I would just say that as we review those we’re making sure we get a quality project rather than just (focusing on)what we may get monetarily for the property.” LeCouris said the interest from the three business groups was “significant” and that “there could be substantial dollars paid for that property.” The former nursing home, vacant since 2004, is on a 4.5-acre parcel of city-owned land. As of February the appraised value of the property was estimated between $800,000 and $900,000, depending on whether the city razed the dilapidated building on it or left it standing. Another Tarpon Springs project being moved forward is the Sponge Docks Improvement Project. Commissioners unanimously agreed to increase the design contract of Tarpon Springs-based Hoffman Architects by nearly $232,000, to a total of about $347,000. The $232,000 is coming from the $1.3 million already approved for the project. LeCouris said the extra money would move the project into its second phase, preparing construction diagrams, a prelude to seeking bids. As was the case when commissioners were last updated on the improvement project’s status, in February, a few residents expressed concern the renovations would diminish the Sponge Docks’ historical integrity and charm. “I just want to state that I think it’s a lovely project and if it were anywhere else in the city I would probably be supporting it,” said Athena Tsardoulias, a business owner. “I feel it’s not in keeping with the historic nature of the Sponge Docks and the Sponge Docks area brings in a lot of the revenue for this town.”
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