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Vacant Camino retail plaza gets green light for redo

The empty shopping plaza at Camino Real and SW 3rd Avenue will have a new look. Eventually.

It could take a year to get permits to build Camino Square, Juan Porro, managing director, FCI Residental Corp. said after Monday’s approval. That means no shovels in the ground on 9.13 acres until then.

It took developers three years to tweak the plans with enough incentives to pass 3-2 by city council, acting as the CRA downtown governing agency.

Look for 350 apartments in two, eight-story buildings with parking. Four apartments will be live/work.

The Winn-Dixie there was shuttered in 2010 and shops soon followed. Longtime owners Kimco Realty will redo the retail in two, one-story buildings. Retail was reduced from 73,580 to 37,399 square feet with the rest converted to residential. A dog park and pocket park are planned.

Among the plaza changes are:

·    $1.7 million to add through and turn lanes on the intersection at Camino Real and Dixie Highway;

·    Bike lanes will depend on Fresh Market’s OK to add 5 feet to right-of-ways

·    $100,000 for art in public places at the pocket park

·    Replacing palm trees along the north/south access drive with shade trees.

 Land use attorney Ele Zachariades reassured council the road improvements at the owners’ expense would be made first.

“This was a tough decision but too good for our residents to refuse,” deputy mayor Jeremy Rodgers said before the vote.

The four-hour meeting heard out 17 speakers from the neighborhood. They were pro and con approving the project. The biggest issues were vehicle and train traffic, relocating sober homes and school overcrowding.

“I understand there will be issues but I’m tired of looking at that shopping center,” said Phyllis Robinson. “Development is not a bad word.”

“We’re already overbuilt downtown with residential units,” said JoAnn Landon.

Mayor Scott Singer and Councilman Andy Thomson approved the project. CRA chair Andrea O’Rourke and vice chair Monica Mayotte voted against Camino Square.

“I realize this project will be a catalyst for improving this neighborhood, but I wish it wasn’t as dense,” Mayotte said.

Future traffic studies will have to include train traffic on Brightline/Virgin and freight. “That will have to change,” said O’Rourke.

By Marci Shatzman

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