The City of Plant City has agreed to give 2XS Development, LLC — the company that is tackling the upcoming Midtown development — a short extension.
Though many expected to hear the first whispers of an initial development plan for the upcoming Midtown District, there has been a slight delay in its final submission.
2XS Development, LLC, the company hoping to transform the concrete slabs in the Midtown District into a stylish retail and residential mecca, originally was supposed to submit its Master Development Plan and Minimum Development plan by Jan. 14. The development agreement gave them 60 days from their initial Oct. 14 agreement. However, a vote from city commissioners on Feb. 10 has allotted them a 30-day extension to submit the applications for approval.
“They’ve turned in some draft master plans and we have been working and reviewing them, and one of the things that came out is the way that the Midtown code is currently written, it identifies primary and secondary streets and it assigns a certain level of commercial to anything facing a primary versus a secondary street. So here’s what it did: when you applied all of that trigonometry, he was going to have to build 140,000 square feet of commercial space the way his master plan was laid out,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “That is the equivalent of roughly 26 Applebee’s restaurants on that 16 acres. It doesn’t work.”
When the City of Plant City saw what would have to be done to make the plan adhere to the Midtown code they realized there was a problem. McDaniel said he had two major concerns upon seeing that. Calling the square footage “complete overkill,” he said they had to quickly come up with a way to bring that number down to something manageable.
First, he felt 140,000 square feet in the allotted acreage would not be a viable build for the developer because it would be nearly impossible to fill, thus it would have a lot of vacancies. That brings down the overall worth of the development. Secondly, if the developer was lucky enough to fill all 140,000 square feet of commercial space, they would suddenly have another unintended problem: downtown would be drained.
Midtown is supposed to act as an asset to downtown. The two are supposed to merge and bring foot traffic to the area. One should breathe life into the other and together they should make the core of Plant City an enviable destination. But having that much commercial solely in Midtown would inevitably “suck the life” out of the downtown businesses, which McDaniel is firmly against. He said Sam Bauer, co-owenr of 2XS with Steven Katz, agreed and did not want to create something that could possibly be detrimental to the downtown section of Plant City.
So the group is now working to overcome that hurdle and get the number down to a “much more reasonable square footage” that is viable to build and a complement to downtown rather than a hindrance.
McDaniel said this unexpected speed bump gave everyone at the table pause, so he felt it was best to ask commissioners to consider allowing another 30 days to pass before 2XS had to present its master plan. This will also allow the city to take a hard look at the final plan without the pressure of a ticking clock.
This is not, however, a death sentence for Midtown. McDaniel called this an “unintended consequence” but said he’s not in any way worried about the future of the project.
“For those that ask, ‘Well why didn’t you see it coming?’ all I can tell them is it all depends on how the planning is done. The way he is laying out buildings and where the focus was put, it triggered certain things that were built into the code and we were suddenly facing a massive amount of required commercial space,” McDaniel said. “We don’t need, nor do we want, 140,000 square feet of commercial space down there.”
Nodding again to his Applebee’s analogy, he said anyone who takes the time to picture what that would actually look like would realize it was a recipe for disaster. If the Applebee’s imagery doesn’t work, he said the math also equates to approximately 22 Outback Steakhouses. Either way, it’s a massive amount of retail and the current character of the city doesn’t support such an intense undertaking.
The new timeline has this all being wrapped up as soon as March following the Florida Strawberry Festival or early April at the latest.