LARGO — Gift shopping for that person who already has everything? Does he or she have any interest in developing land for residential or commercial use? Then the city may have just the thing. Good luck gift wrapping it, though.
Largo has two pieces of land near West Bay Drive on the market this holiday season, with another soon to follow. The three sites are part of a city strategy years in the making to get 5 acres of underproductive city-owned land along West Bay developed with active storefronts, offices, or homes.
Getting the land sold and developed is a top priority for the rest of 2012 and 2013, says Teresa Brydon, Largo's economic development manager.
"Being able to rebuild the downtown is critical for Largo," Brydon said. "This is a big, big one for us."
The land consists of 27 parcels acquired by the city over the years (some as far back as 1953) and staff has divided it into five sites, each given a letter — A through E. Sites A and B are on the market, and Site E is soon to follow. The details:
• Site A is a 0.9-acre parcel along Ridge Road N, the former site of the Stepping Stone house for the homeless. The city bought it in 2007 for $850,000 and is seeking $249,000. The land is listed with Colliers International real estate brokers. Though the city expects the land to be used residentially, either for townhomes or small single-family homes, Brydon said it could be used commercially as well.
• Site B is 1.14 acres — a full city block — on West Bay, bought in separate purchases in 2006 and 2007 for a combined $2.45 million. The land's value is now about $586,000.
Largo has been seeking requests for proposals from developers since July. The city originally was going to stop taking bids in early November, but a dearth of bidders prompted an extension to Jan. 14. Brydon hopes by then several developers will have expressed interest, most likely to put in a mix of office space and retail.
• Site E, the old Largo Hotel, will be the next to hit the market, as soon as the city and its brokers can agree on a price. The city bought the 0.3-acre property in 2006 for $775,000. Its value has plummeted to less than $100,000, and the city and Prudential Commercial Real Estate of Florida are deciding its listing price.
When Brydon came to city commissioners in 2011 with a strategy for selling the West Bay land, several expressed dismay at the money Largo will lose. Brydon agreed she wished the land had higher values, but added that the point of community redevelopment is not to make money for the city, but to get vacant land productive.
"The end product is going to be something bigger and stronger for our downtown market," Brydon said.
The other two sites, C and D, have about 3 acres total, some along West Bay and the rest just off the main road. Brydon could see commercial, office or residential uses there, but said what the city does with C and D depends on how quickly A, B and E get sold.
Tom Morrissette, president of the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce, agrees with Brydon on the importance of getting the land developed. The real estate market is improving, he said, but the city still faces challenges in attracting development there.
"To see some bulldozers and cranes moving, that would be a great sign," he said. "I'll be happy when someone signs on the dotted line."
Will Hobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.