Meres apartment complex taking shape in Tarpon

The 236-unit Icaria on Pinellas complex is on track for a spring 2020 grand opening

TARPON SPRINGS – The developers of a 236-unit apartment complex on the southeast corner of Meres Boulevard and South Pinellas Avenue said they’ve dealt with several challenges since the project started last October.

These difficulties include permitting and weather delays, the installation of 180,000 cubic-yards, or approximately 180 truckloads, of filler soil and the additional design of the Meres Boulevard extension to U.S. 19.

Bowen Arnold and John Schilling, principals at Tampa’s DDA Development, say they understand how the delays have led to growing concerns in the community about the project.

“When it goes on for so long, people become distrustful,” Arnold said during an Oct 15 walkthrough of the site, which is on 6.5 acres between Winn Dixie and the AdventHealth North Pinellas hospital. “We want to show them we’re dedicated to being good neighbors.”

Arnold’s and Schilling’s plan to integrate the first market share apartment complex of its kind and scale into the Tarpon Springs community includes something simple—a name change.

“Meres Crossing was the overall name of the multi-phased project planned for this area,” Schilling explained. “We wanted to do something different.”

“We tried to differentiate the name of the project, to honor the city’s Greek heritage, and Icaria (is an homage to that,” Arnold added.

Icaria is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea famed for the longevity of its inhabitants.

While the name change is a good start, the veteran apartment and condo developers, who said they typically work on two to four projects a year, know it’ll take more than a catchy name to lure potential renters and appease residents and city officials. Arnold and Schilling hope that the market share apartments, plus several community-focused touches, will go a long way toward winning over the skeptics.

“These are luxury apartments with full amenities, including granite countertops, large windows and high ceilings,” Schilling said of the $40 million project. The five U.S. Green Certified buildings will feature 40 to 60 1-,2- and 3-bedroom units, the first of which will be available late first quarter 2020.

“We’ve got a mix of buildings and options — for example, this one has parking underneath, another one has an elevator for residents who can’t walk upstairs,” Arnold said. “And all the buildings feature wide hallways with high ceilings and extra storage space, because we know how valuable that component is to today’s renters.”

Icaria on Pinellas, its developers said, will also feature on-site amenities typically associated with high-end developments, including a pool area, fitness room and recreation center and four garages, as well as one feature few others can offer — backdoor access to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail.

“That’s a component that we really liked,” Arnold said. “We see it as an amenity, to be able to cruise the trail at the end of the day.”

Other key elements of the project include a road that will connect Advent Health North Pinellas to the Meres extension to help alleviate traffic on busy Alt. 19, plus the installation of $100,000 worth of public art, a city requirement for projects of this size.

“We’ve got a public art obligation and we’re exploring some local artists and others we’ve worked with in the past,” Arnold said, adding, “no decision has been made yet, but it has to be visible to the public, so we’d like to do something facing the trail as well as near the entrance.”

Regarding the Meres Boulevard extension, delays to that part of the development agreement — a provision that DDA build an extension of Meres Boulevard east, all the way to U.S. 19 — rankled many residents and city officials. The rankled include Mayor Chris Alahouzos, who remains adamant that no apartments would be occupied until the road, which will serve as an evacuation route for the city, is finished.

“I met with the developers recently, and I made it very clear that part of the agreement states the Meres extension must be completed,” Alahouzos said. “That’s got to be done before the apartments can be occupied and I emphasized that to them and they said they understood.”

Work on the extension is set to start next month, with an estimated four-month timetable for completion, Arnold said.

“Of course, the extension of Meres will be good for the city and for us,” Arnold said, adding, “it will benefit us, but we want it to benefit the city, as well. We want to be a big part of the community.”

When asked how he envisioned the South Pinellas Avenue-Meres Boulevard intersection following the completion of his project, Arnold said: “I would hope we see some businesses grow north of us to downtown. With our project, plus the hospital improvements, this will be a beautiful corner of the city, and you will see more permanent residents here and that’s going to be good for the economy and good for the community.”

On that point, Alahouzos agreed.

“I hope we’re able to bring businesses to that part of town, and this project will help because there will be close to 500 people who will shop and eat and become part of our community,” he said. “It’s going to be beneficial to the whole city.”

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