SEMINOLE — Developers of the Seminole Mall are getting close to announcing plans for revamping this sprawling, rundown property that city leaders say is key to revitalizing the community.
The City Council this month approved a request to designate the mall property a state brownfield site, making developers eligible for tax breaks to clean up pollutants left behind by a dry cleaner and gas station.
The developer also bought up two office properties on the north end of the mall parking lot that house the Chamber of Commerce and several small businesses.
While nothing is set in stone yet, Dale Johnson of commercial real estate developer Primerica Group said she’s been talking with potential tenants and that a site plan may be coming soon.
“We’re getting close,” said Johnson, development and construction director at the Tampa-based firm.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have something by the end of the year that we can sit down with the city and their consultants to start talking about.”
Once a bustling shopping center, the mall on the corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street has fallen on hard times in the past decade.
Canadian investment firm North American Investment Group, which has an office in West Palm Beach, bought the property last year for $14.6 million.
The firm has partnered with Seminole Mall LP and Primerica to plan the property’s renewal.
Speculation about the mall’s future is rife among city residents, with some people expecting chic boutiques and others big box stores or maybe even apartments.
City leaders hope whatever is built will serve as the city’s commercial hub.
Developers have given no indication so far about what may actually be built.
They are taking care, though, to ensure that whatever they finally present to the city will meet expectations, Johnson said.
“When we sit down, we hope that it won’t be a long process, that we’ll come very close early on,” she said.
A last step before starting any redevelopment project was getting the city’s approval for naming the mall property a brownfield site.
The dry cleaner that operated here several decades ago left harmful chemicals in the soil that must be removed before any construction on the site, said Michael Goldstein, a Miami environmental attorney representing the developers.
While underground gas tanks at a former service station were removed years ago, some final cleanup may still be needed as well.
With the city’s approval, the developers can negotiate an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection to help defray the high costs of cleaning up the site once redevelopment starts.
State law allows for tax credits that can cover 50 percent of remediation costs of as much as $500,000 each year, though the cleanup often costs substantially more, Goldstein said.
“The economic incentive for cleanup is favorable but it’s limited,” said Goldstein, who worked on brownfield cases for a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club on 34th Street North in St. Petersburg.
City Council members at a meeting earlier this month were enthusiastic about helping the redevelopment project pass this final hurdle.
“The citizens have been waiting a long time,” Councilman James Quinn said.