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Clearwater: Costs squeeze condo tower designers

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Construction of the Station Square in downtown Clearwater will be delayed, as will sale of a city parking lot.

By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer

Published May 19, 2004

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CLEARWATER - Plans for a high-rise condominium, restaurant and retail tower downtown have been sidetracked as developers scramble to contend with the skyrocketing price of building materials.

Approved in February, the Station Square project was supposed to begin construction next month, next to the city's historic downtown post office on Cleveland Street.

But after the recent spike in concrete and steel prices, developers retooled the plans to make them more efficient, said Nick Pavonetti, director of development management for Beck Development LLC.

"We've squeezed out a bunch of wasted space," he said Tuesday.

Instead of a U-shaped high-rise, the tower is now centered in the middle, with indentations on the east and west sides.

"It's sort of an H with a fat middle bar," Pavonetti said.

The changes are minor and should only delay construction by 30 days, according to Pavonetti.

"We don't consider there's anything negative going on," he said.

But the pending sale of a city parking lot that would accommodate the deal is on hold until the new plans receive final approval.

Developers had inked a deal with the city to remake the public parking lot next to Station Square Park and include a restaurant and retail space on the ground floor. Under the agreement, the developer would buy the lot, while the city would put up $1.25-million in exchange for 100 public spaces in the complex's garage.

A closing that had been scheduled last month has been postponed, according to Assistant City Manager Ralph Stone.

"It would have closed had they decided to go forward with original designs," he said. "We're waiting for them to make the adjustments on the design and then we'll close."

Pavonetti said he expects to file the new plans this week.

Depending on how much the plans change, Beck will need staff approval and perhaps another nod from the city's Community Development Board, Stone said.

Designers have shifted the pool from the east side of the building to the south side, above the parking garage, according to Pavonetti. Also, he said, the condos have been made larger, reducing the total from 146 to 128.

The $42-million project is still planned for a height of 158 feet.

Ray Cassano, a downtown property owner and health food distributor, who also is prominent in local Scientology circles, is heading a group of local investors backing the project.

Designed by Beck, a Dallas builder, the complex would be the first high-rise, mixed-use redevelopment project downtown in 15 years.

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