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Incentives lure steakhouse chain to Manatee

MANATEE -- Economic incentives have helped lasso a Western-themed restaurant chain to Manatee County.

LongHorn Steakhouse plans to open its first location in Manatee, lured by the 14th Street West Community Redevelopment Agency’s first-ever completed incentive package, an official said Thursday.

“We’re really excited about it because LongHorn Steakhouse is a quality employer,” said Karen Stewart, the county’s economic development program manager.

LongHorn spokeswoman Tara Gray said the company does not comment on new or potential locations until it breaks ground.

That could be later this year, as the county’s planning commission unanimously endorsed the restaurant’s preliminary site plan Thursday. County commissioners are scheduled to review the plan March 3.

It calls for a 204-seat restaurant at 4230 14th St. W. on an outparcel of the Centre Point Commons shopping center northwest of the 14th Street/Cortez Road intersection.

The center is owned by an affiliate of Trammell Crow Co., the real estate development and investment subsidiary of CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., records show. Calls to Trammell Crow’s Tampa office were not immediately returned.

LongHorn has pledged to create 40 jobs in Manatee that will pay an average of $28,000 annually, Stewart said. In return, the CRA will pay the chain $500 cash for each job created and maintained for a predetermined period of time.

The county also will reduce the restaurant’s transportation impact fee by 25 percent, or an estimated $12,000, Stewart said.

The CRA, created by the county in 2002, receives a portion of county property taxes collected within an area bordered by 26th Avenue West, Cortez Road, and Ninth and 18th streets west. The money must be used to improve the area.

A neighboring restaurant owner said that’s what the proposed 5,545-square-foot steakhouse, which would be immediately north of his eatery, will do.

“I love it,” said Bobby Dennis, co-owner of Joey D’s. “I love the traffic it would bring to us. It’s a good fit for the area.”

The steakhouse chain is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc., an Orlando-based restaurateur that also owns the Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands. Darden operates more than 1,800 restaurants with 180,000 employees in North America and had annual sales of $7 billion last year, making it the world’s largest full- service restaurant company.

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