Demo work begins on Dade City's old City Hall

DADE CITY — Donnie Shive wasn't about to get sentimental as he watched a backhoe chomp into the backside of old City Hall, ripping out a room that once upon a time held the city's police department.

Shive pointed to the third-floor room where he sat through a two-hour interview back in 1977, talking about everything but the laborer job for which he was applying. He got the job anyway, and 36 years later, he's the city's public works field manager.

Watching the concrete and brick walls crumble like cardboard was only a wee bit sad, he said.

"You take a walk inside the building and you know it's time for it to go," said Shive.

Dade City commissioners wearing white hard hats mingled with city workers Wednesday morning before posing for photos with the dilapidated, albeit historic, Meridian Avenue building. Then, workers with Cross Construction began tearing it down. Demolition and cleanup are expected to take about three weeks.

City building official Mike Poke also interviewed for a job on the third floor. That was in 1986, and not long after, safety concerns closed the floor for any business other than storage. Like Shive, he wasn't upset about seeing it come down.

"I've been trying to get them to take it down for years," said Poke, adding that the cost of repairing the building and bringing it up to current standards would likely be double that of building a new facility.

Still, there were memories made in the building. Shive and Commissioner Scott Black, who has held office since the early '90s, remember when a potted Norfolk pine tree held sway in the old commission meeting room. Replanted out back, it now towers 20 feet above the top of the building.

Construction workers will work around the pine, and other trees.

City employees began moving out in 2011, some relocating to a neighboring annex and others, like City Manager Billy Poe, to a restored train depot a few blocks away. There has been talk of a new City Hall, but no definite plans have been made, Poe said. He hopes to see everyone together in a new building within the next two years.

Construction on the old City Hall began in 1926, with plans calling for a six-story hotel, said historian Doug Sanders. The money ran out in 1929, with only three floors completed.

"It never did open as a hotel," said Sanders, who served as the city planner from 1989 to 1995. "The city refurbished it in the 1930s and moved in in 1940."

The city government for years shared the building with city fire and police departments, the School Board, a National Guard unit and a savings and loan, Sanders said. The city jail was in the basement.

Sanders sees the demolition as a milestone for Dade City. He congratulated Poe before the backhoe cranked up:

"This means the future's coming."

Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez sits at the controls of an excavator as Commissioners James Shive, right, and Scott Black, left, stand on its tracks for photos before crews began tearing down the old City Hall in Dade City on Wednesday.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez sits at the controls of an excavator as Commissioners James Shive, right, and Scott Black, left, stand on its tracks for photos before crews began tearing down the old City Hall in Dade City on Wednesday.

To see a video of the demolition getting under way, visit tampabay.com/video.

Demo work begins on Dade City's old City Hall 05/01/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 9:04pm]

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