Is Elon Musk about to move into Pinellas County? That will happen if a proposed Tesla showroom and service center materializes.

The Pinellas County Board of Adjustment and Appeals granted conditional approval to a proposed Tesla sales and service facility at a former Kane’s Furniture liquidation store in Lealman. The electric vehicle maker is under contract to buy the 4.2-acre property for an undisclosed sum later this month.

Although not technically a traditional dealership – Tesla’s stores are owned by the company rather than a dealership – the center would look like one.

The 102,410 square foot facility would allow potential Tesla owners to test drive and buy new cars, or have their existing Tesla repaired or serviced. Newly delivered cars would be parked in a 50,000 square foot climate-controlled storage area.

The project would add landscaping along N 34th Street and N 46th Avenue and add “an avant-garde facade” and a new roof, according to a site proposal. The company expects the new facility to employ about 50 new software and automotive technicians.

Among the potential benefits the company describes: Unlike a traditional car dealership, where potentially polluting materials like fuel and oil are commonplace, Tesla’s all-electric operation would be among “the cleanest auto service centers around.” of the United States,” according to the proposal. .

The furniture liquidation center located along North 34th Street where a Tesla dealership was offered, Monday, April 11, 2022 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Related: Florida’s first Polestar EV dealership will open in Tampa in 2022

The sale of the property is not yet final and county approval is conditional upon a final site plan review and certain fees. But the fact that Tesla even looked at Lealman in the first place is a win for the community.

“You hear St. Pete talking about being the next Austin. Well, Lealman is his next door neighbor,” said Christopher Moore, deputy county administrator and county liaison for Lealman. “Right now in St. Petersburg, salaried and middle-class workers, let alone low-income people, can no longer afford to live in the city. And they can’t really go south. They can go to Bradenton. But more likely they would just head north and they would hit Lealman. So just being next door neighbor to the next Austin, you have massive potential.

The Tesla project is within the boundaries of the county’s Lealman Community Redevelopment Area, established in 2015. This means the community, one of the poorest in Pinellas County, can use tax increase funding on a 30-year period to support building and infrastructure improvements. The value for ARC would be determined once the property is reassessed following Tesla’s upgrades in 2023 or 2024.

“Making an investment like this in the community increases the tax value of this property,” Moore said. “There is a direct link to additional income.”

The parcel is near the western edge of the Joe’s Creek Industrial Estate, a county Community Redevelopment Agency focus. This project is expected to include creek improvements, bike paths and walking paths and mixed-use features which could include industrial, office and residential uses.

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“A lot of infrastructure improvements have already happened and are happening,” said Jeremy Heath, chairman of the Lealman Community Redevelopment Area. “When you talk about wealthy tenants moving in there, a combination of blue-collar and white-collar workers, possibly the Joe’s Creek bike path that goes through there, you’re talking about a major resource for all the rides. of life, which I think Lealman really needs.

What drew Tesla to Lealman, Heath said, was the low cost of development compared to the rest of the Tampa Bay area, as well as its concentration of car dealerships along US 19. Tesla has a store retail and a separate service center in Tampa; the Lealman project, combining the two, is part of a new trend for the company, Moore said.

Tesla does not have a media relations department; an email to its investor relations department was not returned Monday afternoon. A spokesperson for Kane declined to comment on the property that will be acquired by Tesla, but confirmed there were no plans to close a nearby furniture showroom at 4501 34th St. N.

Moore and Heath compared Tesla’s imminent arrival to that of another tech giant, Amazon, which last year announced it was building a giant distribution warehouse in Pinellas Park.

Related: Amazon announces giant warehouse in Tallahassee, Pinellas delivery center

“It’s really the tip of the spear in terms of investment and opportunity that exists here to really transform the community,” Moore said. “Some of the biggest, smartest companies in the world have done their research and said, ‘This is where we want to be’.”

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