LARGO — The future of a once-grand plan to create a walkable mega-development in east Largo is looking even murkier.
The 38.5-acre property near Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19 is at the center of a foreclosure suit.
There's talk of a big-box store on the site and maybe a shopping center down the road. But that's a far cry from the original plans for Largo Towne Center as an open-air complex with upscale shops, trendy restaurants, offices and homes.
Over the past few years, city leaders have seen various incarnations of the project. Most are significantly scaled back since Boulder Venture South LLC proposed ambitious plans for the site about six years ago.
Now, the city is talking with Wells Fargo, one of the banks that holds a mortgage on the property.
"We have been working with them very closely on issues like site design, to produce a quality project," said Carol Stricklin, the city's community development director.
Together, Wells Fargo and Regions Bank say the property owner, a subsidiary of Boulder Venture South, owes them a total of $20 million, according to a suit filed in February.
Robert Schmidt Jr., chief executive officer of Boulder Venture South, did not return calls for comment by deadline Tuesday.
The site previously was occupied by Bay Area Outlet Mall. Built in 1984, the mall had occupancy problems for years. A Miami company bought the property in 2000, renamed it Crossroads Mall and tried unsuccessfully to turn it around. In 2005, Boulder Venture bought the property for $26 million.
The future of the property is still unknown. A mound of dirt sits on the lot behind a boarded up Ruby Tuesday restaurant. Stricklin said the Sembler Co., a well-known St. Petersburg-based retail developer and property manager, is working with the bank on a concept for the project.
In October, the Sembler Co., which was working with the property owner then, presented its vision called Largo Commons, billed as "a lively shopping destination with shopping and dining opportunities."
The open-air concept featured two big-box stores and a smattering of smaller stores and shops. The project would be built in two phases, with the construction of one of the big-box stores first.
It's not clear if the Sembler Co.'s concept has changed since then. The company did not return several calls for comment.
Largo Commissioner Harriet Crozier said the site has potential. She and Largo Mayor Pat Gerard have heard that Walmart has an interest in it.
"We've been trying to get hopefully more than just a Walmart there," Gerard said.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.