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Lucky Dill Interested in Dunedin Location

The conceptual plan for 138 upscale apartments along with two restaurants and retail stores for the downtown Gateway tract in Dunedin was approved by city commissioners on Thursday.

Palm Harbor restaurateur Jason Mitow has been eyeing Dunedin for years.

And even though his popular  is sketched in as the centerpiece of Pizzuti Builders' conceptual renderings of Dunedin's downtown Gateway project last week, it's far from a done deal.

"We're working to make it a reality," Mitow said Friday.

The  at the long-vacant 4.1-acre plot across from  includes 138 upscale, one- and two-bedroom, multi-family units, along with two restaurants and retail stores on the bottom level.

Most of the Dunedin city commission raved over the conceptual plan on the basis of attracting a younger demographic to downtown and generating an estimated $340,400 in annual property tax revenue and $2.17 million in annual sales.

It was approved 4-1 during the Aug. 23 public meeting with Julie Scales as the dissenting vote.

"As a young person I would have loved that," Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said during the presentation of the plans Thursday. Bujalski is a longtime resident and graduate of .

Pizzuti Builders purchased part of the Gateway land for $1.2 million in 2007. Originally, it was going to be used for mixed medical offices and retail space, but the economic downturn delayed the sale of the second half of the land, and thus, the land has been sitting primed and ready for years. The land now has a just market value of $890,000, according to the Pinellas County property records.

Pizzuti still must negotiate the purchase of the second land parcel. 

In March, the commission further delayed the project and granted a nine-month extension for Pizzuti to close the sale. The deadline to close is approaching. 

The prospect of more downtown dwellings does not excite everyone.

Scales, who offered the only dissenting vote, said she understood why the plans changed, but had "serious reservations" about moving away from the original spirit of the project, which was meant to help hospital needs and be a "signature" entry to downtown. 

"I don’t feel a compulsion to do something just so something can happen right now," she said. "My preference is to wait..."

Pizzuti Builders explained that no one from the hospital expressed a need or interest in using the space, so plans were changed to accommodate what the market would support: mixed, family-use apartments, retail and restaurants.

It's the overall ability and openness to market needs that makes Dunedin attractive to Mitow. 

"The city... does a great job of understanding business and balancing the uses downtown so as to be beneficial to the city as a whole," he said. 

If the Gateway project continues to moves forward as the builders hope, Mitow could open a smaller version of his Palm Harbor restaurant downtown in late 2013 or early 2014, he said.

"It's a really exciting quintessential American downtown," he said.

Jason Defant August 29, 2012 at 02:40 PM
One would think Lucky Dill should get a handle on their US19 location before they expand, yet again. I remember a day when eating at the Dill used to be a good experience with good food. Now it's too busy (or even mobbed) to expect any level of service worthy of a pleasurable dining experience. Putting aside the service, the quality of food has just gone down hill with the corporation that is now Lucky Dill. Many of us remember when it was a family run business. Now it's a bunch of suits that need a return on their investment. I've had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the new place. Even when it empty for breakfast, food was average at best. Regardless, this is a huge change for Dunedin from the nice, quaint town it used to be. Big business is running you now.
Tom Kelly August 29, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I've been to Lucky Dill recently a few times with no problems at all. Decent food and service was prompt.
Sahara August 31, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Jason has a point. The cramped, table sharing New York Deli atmosphere of the old Lucky Dill, where the character of the place was only outdone by the characters that frequented it, and the summer brought a reduced price on the corned beef sandwich, is sad to say,no longer. It has been replaced by a Ruby Tuesdayesque clone. The food isn't that much different; It's the stamped out plasticville atmosphere. Such is progress in the bottom line world of our new economy. Pshaw and Harrumph!
Walt Kowalski August 31, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I just go to Firehouse Subs and ring the bell!

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