A local real estate broker has been meeting with county officials to improve access issues for a 10-acre parcel on E192 in hopes of luring a hotel to the property.
Watson Commercial Realtybroker Rob Keeler represents the owners, Harry and Jeanette Hinkle, who purchased the vacant land through an affiliate company in 2003 for just over $1 million.
Keeler initially sought staff input for a project that would have included a grocery-store anchored retail plaza on the site. He told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday the owner is now focused on bringing a limited service hotel with retail outparcels to the location.
"Grocery is still on the table, but there are other grocery stores in the area," he said. "The county staff really seemed to like the idea of a hotel, and there is demand for a limited service hotel close to OHP. There's also a gap for fast-casual dining in the area, so that's something we would target."
The property has frontage on E192, but it backs up to Gateway High School on the north side and county-owned property on the west. Keeler was hoping to secure a driveway easement or road right-of-way through the county land to provide a second access point from Bill Beck Boulevard.
That's critical for mobility, but also because that road serves as the main entrance to NeoCity -- the county's new research park -- and the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center at Bridg.
County Planner Jane Adams told Keeler the E192 CRA district master plan, which was adopted with the strict design guidelines in 2016, includes an east-west road from Bill Beck that would cross the northern boundary of the parcel, providing for the secondary access point.
She said the property would have to be rezoned, likely to Commercial Tourist zoning. "A hotel definitely fits in with what they want there," she said.
The site falls within the Tech Transitional Zone of the CRA district. The zone incorporates properties with direct frontage on U.S. 192 adjacent to the research park, and the design guidelines emphasize creation of an urban, walkable community. It's meant to encourage vertical mixed-use development, Class "A" office space and hotels -- uses that would complement the NeoCity project and OHP. All buildings in this zone must be a minimum of two stories.
Keeler said that particular guideline makes it difficult to attract retailers and fast-casual restaurants. "There are ways to work around it, with building facades," he said. "But it makes the project more expensive."
He said his next step is to meet with interested buyers and develop a concept plan. "There are several folks interested," he said.