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Pinellas County shifts gears on STAR Center

Margie Manning



Pinellas County Economic Development Director Mike Meidel announced his retirement on Tuesday, March 9.

Pinellas County Economic Development has scrapped plans to sell the Young-Rainey STAR Center in Largo, and now will redevelop the 96-acre manufacturing and technology campus.

The new direction represents an ambitious effort to create high-wage jobs in target industries, while also modernizing a site that already is home to one of the largest employers in the county, Raytheon Co. (NYSE: RTN), Mike Meidel, director of PCED told the St. Pete Catalyst Tuesday morning.

Meidel does not yet have an estimate on the cost of the redevelopment plan but said it would be funded with proceeds from Penny for Pinellas, a 1 percent sales tax that won a 10-year reauthorization last year. The reauthorized tax will take effect starting in January 2020.

PCED received three bids on the property in mid-October, but rejected them, Meidel said.

“The best bid amounted to the county financing some of the cost of the purchase and we can’t extend credit to a private company,” he said.

The three bidders were Harrod Properties Inc., Clearview Tower Co. LLC, and Belleair Development LLC. Details of their bids were not disclosed. Because of the recommendation to reject the bids, Florida law allows the records to be exempt from the public and held confidential for 12 months, according to the county.

Young-Rainey STAR Center

The property, at 11400 Belcher Rd., had a total estimated value of $19.1 million, according to a 2015 appraisal. “The bids were relatively low versus the appraisal price,” Meidel said.

It’s the second time in three years that an effort to sell the property through a request for negotiations has failed. A 2015 proposal did not close because the top bidder wanted to finance the purchase.

The county will now take on the project on its own.

“We own the land outright. We know that we’re going to do what we want done,” Meidel said. “We care about high-wage job creation, so we can bring that to bear, and we know the end product will be exactly what we want.”

It will cost about $5 million to $8 million just to update the electrical, sewer and water systems, he said.

“A lot of the buildings are back from 1959, so they need some work. Ideally we would look for a way to fill out a few of the empty acres we still have,” he said. “We have a lot of parking lots and we may go to structured parking … and I want to find a way to replace the first 600,000 square foot building that was phased in over decades. It’s not one building, but many that were attached to each other over the years.”

The county needs to remove the building to remove the chemical waste contamination that occurred prior to Pinellas County’s purchase of the site in 1999. It previously was owned by the Department of Energy.

Meidel will set up a 12-member advisory council, made up of professional planners and economic developers from cities throughout Pinellas County, and hopes to have that in place by the first quarter of 2019.






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