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Largo officials consider two sites for community center

After months of planning and discussions, the city of Largo still doesn't know where its going to build its new community center.

But they're planning to move ahead with a design for the new facility anyway, city officials said.

The two sites being considered are the Highland Recreation Complex and 8.5 acres on Alternate Keene Road north of East Bay Drive. The Goodman Group, which owns the Palms of Largo, donated the Alternate Keene land to the city last year.

Henry Schubert, assistant city manager, said staff members are preparing a list of the positives and negatives of each site to determine which would be best. The list will be presented to commissioners during the May 27 city meeting.

"There are pros and cons to both," Schubert said. "Clearly, you never find the perfect site for everything."

In a city meeting last month, commissioners said they were embarrassed to learn the city was considering other locations for the site without telling the Goodman Group. For nearly six months, the city's tentative plan was to build the center on the donated property.

Gary Solomonson, national director of sales and marketing with the Goodman Group, said he is aware the city is considering another location, but that the last he heard from the city, the plan was to still build on the Alternate Keene site.

"I haven't heard from anyone that the council or the staff has a strong feeling about moving away from our site," Solomonson said. "We're still going ahead with working with the transfer of land."

One problem with the Alternate Keene Road location is traffic flow, Schubert said. There is no traffic light at the East Bay Drive entrance to that location, making for a potential safety hazard, he said.

"If you were to locate the community center on the Highland Recreation site, it could take access off of Lake Avenue," he said. "That's one of the considerations."

Uncertainty as to where the center will be located prompted commissioners during a May 6 meeting to question Schubert's request to move ahead with the center's design plans.

"Where were we going to put this facility?" Commissioner Gigi Arntzen asked during the meeting. "Will we be designing something before we know where it's going to go? I just don't want to put the cart before the horse."

Schubert said the plan is to proceed with the center's design even though a location has not been determined. The city has hired an architect and will begin negotiations to determine the exact scope of the work and its cost. The earliest the city would present the design contract to commissioners would be June 17, Schubert said. By then, commissioners may have already decided on a location.

"Part of the design process is determining which activities we actually are going to have in the building and what kind of space we need," he said. "So there's a lot of this analysis that can be done prior to knowing where the center will be."

Schubert said the idea behind the center is to create a recreational area for seniors at the Palms of Largo and other city residents, a welcoming place that will meet the growing needs of the city.

"A rapidly growing segment of the population is the seniors in the community," Schubert said. "The current facility that's downtown is outdated and too small, so we want to provide a more modern facility that's large enough to accommodate the demand."

Largo officials consider two sites for community center 05/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:59pm]
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