Proposed East San Marco units nearly double previous plan

Developers following trends in real estate, financing

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

At a town hall meeting last month at Balis Community Center, San Marco residents learned that developers intend to change the proposed East San Marco development from 125 condominium units to a 240-unit apartment complex.

The St. Joe Company, Regency Centers and Whitehall Realty Advisors presented changes to the previous designs of East San Marco that reflect the shift in real estate trends away from condominiums to apartment complexes.

The vacant site on the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue, where plans for a Publix, retail shops and residential units languished for years due to the recessed economy, was the main topic of discussion at the town hall meeting as residents listened to details of the developer’s proposed changes.
The project, a joint venture between The St. Joe Company and Regency Centers, was originally approved in 2006 for 57,000 sq
uare feet of retail space, which included a grocery anchor.  According to John Carey, the managing partner of Whitehall, Publix is still committed to anchor the retail space, the size of which has not changed from the original plans and will be slightly larger than the Riverside store.
Changes to the first parcel of land, located on the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard, include a reduction in retail space to 43,000 square feet on the bottom floor of the development. On the five residential floors above the retail space, the originally planned 1,600 square-foot condominiums will be chopped into 900-square-foot apartments, allowing for the total number of units above the retail space to increase from 125 to 240. The majority of the apartments will be studio and one-bedroom units.
Wells Fargo has already developed the second parcel of land and will sit in the middle of the proposed retail and apartment space and the third parcel located next to Fletcher Park. Originally 35 units were planned for that site and at this time that remains unchanged.

To accommodate the larger number of residential units, developers have increased parking from 440 spaces to 570 spaces. There will be separate parking access for retail customers and renters.

The Mediterranean-style building will feature a blend of glass, stucco and stone that, according to
developers, is “designed to enhance the character of the neighborhood.” The original design had the building stair-stepped back from the street, but that became too costly. In the new design, parts of the building will be recessed while others are projected out to maintain a similar look.

The next step for developers is to get the planned unit development changes approved.  They would like to break ground next summer and anticipate a finished project within 18 months.
Some residents were concerned about the impact on traffic on Hendricks Avenue from more dwelling units in the same size building. Residents complained that traffic already backs up to Southside Methodist Church. “It’s a huge quality of life issue,” said Fred Lambrou, a San Marco resident. “We have a different situation now from 2006.  Landon is a phenomenally successful school and we have a full interchange on I-95 that will further impact traffic.”

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who hosted the town hall meeting, agreed that the traffic issue will have to be addressed. “It’s hard to evaluate Hendricks because it’s been a moving target. We already have an issue because of the Overland Bridge Project,” Boyer explained. “We have to figure out how to manage traffic better. The school might have to be part of the solution.”

Besides the residential component, the project has the potential to enhance business activity within San Marco Square and the surrounding areas.
Zimm Boulos, president of OE&S located in San Marco, spoke in support of the development. “Is it perfect? No, but in the end, it will be a big win,” Boulos said. “I think they are doing the best that can be done for the neighborhood.”

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