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Clearwater in talks to buy site of Times office

The Times building at 710 Court St. in Clearwater was built in 1978. The windmill was supposed to provide power but has not operated in years.

Times files (1998)

The Times building at 710 Court St. in Clearwater was built in 1978. The windmill was supposed to provide power but has not operated in years.

CLEARWATER — The publisher of the St. Petersburg Times and city officials are negotiating a potential sale of the Times' Clearwater property.

The city would likely use the Times property at 710 Court St. to build a transit hub. The hub would replace the downtown bus terminal on Park Street, Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said Tuesday.

The site — on the main route to Clearwater Beach and close to the Pinellas Trail — has been referred to in transit studies as a "key parcel" for future transit development such as beach shuttles or light rail, Irwin said.

The building currently houses news and advertising staff for the Clearwater & North Pinellas Times.

"The city has been interested in our property for years, and when officials recently made a fresh approach, we were able to reach a tentative agreement," the Times said in a statement Tuesday. "If this sale does go through, we'll have time to find other suitable quarters in Clearwater. We have deep roots in this community."

Any deal for purchase of the Times property would have to be approved by the City Council in a public meeting.

No price for the property has been released. However, the city's capital improvement plan shows the city has reserved up to $2.5 million in Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue for the purchase.

The Times property could round out a complex of city property spanning several blocks near the intersection of Court Street and Myrtle Avenue, including the Municipal Services Building and police and fire headquarters. The city also owns unused property next to the Times parking lot.

The Times site and parking lot, Pinellas property records show, has an estimated market value of about $1.5 million.

Built in 1978 for the staff of the Times and the Evening Independent, the bureau was designed by the Clearwater architecture firm Williams and Walker as an experiment in energy efficiency. Solar panels and grass boxes provided energy and insulation. A 100-foot-tall rooftop windmill was intended to produce power to charge up lights and computer terminals. The windmill, perhaps the building's most defining feature, has not spun for years.

Reporters, editors and advertising staff have come to call the building, which lacks windows, "the bunker."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater in talks to buy site of Times office 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:38pm]
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