By Tamas Mondovics

BigBoxmapWork crews associated with Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC, the developer of the now infamous and controversial Bloomingdale Big Box and residential project planned just east of the Bloomingdale Regional Library, are now making way for a groundbreaking that County officials say could be only weeks away.

“Construction plans were recently approved and the developer could break ground on the site anytime,” said Roy Mazur with Hillsborough County Development Services.

Mazur added that the work and activity currently seen on the 42-acre Bloomingdale Ave. parcel is the normal pre-construction routine including the marking of trees, and setting up barricades for the planned site.

While unable to name the vendors or businesses to occupy the site, Mazur confirmed that the development will be anchored by a 158,000 sq. ft, big box retail store, rumored to be a Walmart Supercenter, along with five out parcels as well as a residential complex of 261 apartments or condominiums. The plan calls for close to 1,000 parking spaces.

From the moment of hearing about the plans for the development in the heart of their neighborhood, residents have fought against the project, the County, and the developer, questioning the entire process, which they said was planned and finalized behind their backs, with no proper communication to the community and, without consideration for the negative affects including traffic woes which are already plaguing the area.

Besides expressing dismay to their former District 4 County Commissioner Al Higginbotham in hopes of reaching a balanced solution before it is too late, the community’s efforts included pulling its resources together to conduct a number of public meetings as well as street demonstrations opposing the project.

As the project continued to move forward, residents gave their support to Can-Do (Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization), which took on the role of representing the community.

Before long, Can-Do felt no choice but to pursue legal means, filing a law suit against Hillsborough County and Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC, in hopes of a chance to have a voice in what happens within their own neighborhood.

The effort ended with a judge-ordered mediation. Unfortunately, the outcome of the much-anticipated process led many to ask more questions and less answers about the project.

Red Cast got the green light to proceed, while leaving the community feeling defeated by those they say should have been there for them in the first place.

The Bloomingdale Homeowners Association pursued the effort for a while in hopes of reviving the battle, however the engagement was short-lived as board members felt it was best not to continue the fight.

“We had a meeting with representatives of Red Cast a couple of months ago and voiced our concerns, but decided that it was best to end the fight against the project,” said Bloomingdale HOA President George May. “We could see that it was a done deal and that it was not a battle we could win.”

May added that the community’s focus is now better directed to keep an eye on other upcoming projects that will affect the community.

“It is time for us to coordinate our efforts and attention on projects we can influence or on which we have some say, such as the upcoming Bell Shoals Rd. widening, the intersection project on Culbreath and Bloomingdale Ave. The major concern continues to be the traffic woes each of these projects will potentially create,” May said. “We want to make sure we direct our efforts and means to protect our community and keep it safe.”

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