Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo considers downtown development incentives

Among the incentives and grants Largo is considering would be grants of $200 to help businesses replace their pole signs with monument signs.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2010)

Among the incentives and grants Largo is considering would be grants of $200 to help businesses replace their pole signs with monument signs.

LARGO — For more than a decade, the city has been trying to transform the West Bay Drive area into a bustling downtown district. The sluggish economy of recent years certainly hasn't helped.

Now that the economy is starting to pick up, Largo officials are preparing to offer businesses and property owners a series of incentives in a renewed attempt to foster the creation of offices, homes and storefronts in the district.

At this point, downtown's retail sector is outpacing the development of offices and housing.

"We're doing a great job right now with our retail space. It's all starting to fill in," said Teresa Brydon, Largo's economic development manager. "Hopefully, private developers are going to come in and say, 'Your downtown is really starting to fill up.'

"It's becoming a lot harder to find a vacant retail space in our downtown. They're pretty much booked up. We've got that, but we also want to add that office component to it."

Officials have been considering a series of four incentives:

• Grants to encourage the construction of apartments, condos and townhomes. The grants would amount to $5,000 per unit, or 5 percent of the land and construction costs, whichever is higher — up to $10,500 per unit.

• Grants to expedite the construction of office space in the district. This would include mixed-used projects with at least 15,000 square feet of offices. The amount of each grant would depend on a formula that takes into the account the taxable value of new construction. The grants could only be used for public improvements such as landscaping, lighting, bike racks, sidewalks, drainage and parking lots.

• Small grants of $200 to help businesses replace their pole signs with monument signs. The city says 17 pole signs along West Bay in the district are required to be replaced by 2017.

• A job creation incentive that would reimburse employers up to $10,000 for each professional office job they add to the district.

Largo staffers and the City Commission have been honing these ideas at several work sessions over the past year, including one last week. Commissioners will vote on the incentives at a public meeting soon.

They plan to allocate $80,000 to kick off the program in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The money will come from tax increment funds raised in Largo's downtown community development district.

The incentives are designed to cut costs for developers and lure them downtown.

"It's specifically looking at ways to help lower the costs to come in and redevelop in our downtown — because a lot of times they've got to take down a building," Brydon said, which can cost $6,000 to $10,000. "That's a lot of money when you're talking about going into that location versus going down the street where there's a vacant parcel."

The job creation incentive has been the most controversial one for some city commissioners.

"I don't see the public good as much as I do with the other incentives," commissioner Robert Murray said. "With the others, I see concrete public good coming out of the incentives. There's infrastructure, there's buildings, improvements to the landscape. A business is not going to put somebody on the payroll until the demand is there."

Mayor Pat Gerard had similar concerns.

But they recently decided to support it after reviewing examples of similar programs in Lakeland, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

"More jobs in the downtown bring higher sales for existing retailers and restaurants that are there in the district," Brydon said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4151.

Largo considers downtown development incentives 06/14/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Before Janessa Shannon's death, parents traded accusations of abuse


    TAMPA — Long before Janessa Shannon's remains were discovered in a Hillsborough County nature preserve, her parents tried to convince court officials that she was in danger.

    From her own family.

    Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead July 12 in the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Hillsborough County. [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]
  2. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams


    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  3. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  4. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.