MADEIRA BEACH — The sometimes controversial gulf-front Archibald Park is getting a major facelift that will cost the city nearly $1 million.
The project comes five years after a citywide referendum directed the city to refurbish and reopen the park's Snack Shack to the public.
Since 2009, a special citizens' committee debated just how to do that, and, at the same time, reconstruct the aging parking lot and restroom facilities.
The bid awarded Tuesday is the culmination of their efforts.
"I really like what I heard tonight," Brian Bornemann, a committee member said after the commission's unanimous vote to spend $890,000 to refurbish the park. In addition, the city set aside another $89,000 for possible unforeseen costs or additions to the project.
When the reconstruction project is completed in about six months, the 1930s-era log cabin will have a new kitchen, windows and ventilation system. Outside, new decking will be installed. The existing restrooms will be renovated, and the parking lot, drainage and lighting system will be improved as well.
New landscaping and accent lighting will dress up the park entrance, which will feature a decorative archway and obelisk.
The Snack Shack will remain open during construction, which will begin on the north side of the parking lot.
"Its going to be a beautiful park," Mayor Travis Palladeno said.
The only item the commission removed from the project was a proposed spiral staircase inside the Snack Shack leading to a second floor storage area. The present concessionaire, Paradise Sweets LLC, had no objections.
The contracting company, Kloote Contracting of Palm Harbor, has a long history in the area, completing municipal projects in South Pasadena, Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Redington Beach and Redington Shores — as well as in Pasco, Citrus and Hillsborough counties.
The city received ownership of Archibald Park in 1972 when the Department of the Interior deeded the park and the log cabin to the city, with the provision that it be used for public recreation. The deed allowed recreation-related concessions, but not for primarily profit-generating activities.
Alex Archibald, a descendent of the original property owner who donated the land to the federal government in 1931, has repeatedly but unsuccessfully challenged that deed, arguing that the original deed prohibits any commercial use on the property.
After taking over operation of the park, the city converted the log cabin building, long used by veterans being treated at Bay Pines, to a concession stand for beachgoers, renaming it the Snack Shack.
About a decade ago, the Snack Shack closed when the city had difficulty finding a concessionaire to run it.
A plan to turn the Snack Shack into a "destination restaurant" collapsed after the U.S. Interior Department ruled the building could only be used to support recreational uses of the beach park.
In 2007, that ruling ended up costing the city $500,000 to settle a subsequent lawsuit with the proposed restaurant's operator.
In 2008, city voters overwhelmingly supported restoring the Snack Shack. The City Commission had considered tearing the deteriorating building down, but was stopped by the citywide referendum.
The Snack Shack reopened to the public in 2010 after the city spent about $200,000 in renovations so that food and beverages could once again be available to beachgoers.
Now the entire park will be similarly renovated.
"This has been a long time coming. The park has been an issue for a long time. Archie (Archibald) has called me on several occasions about saving the park and keeping it as a park and this is what it will do," Commissioner Terry Lister said Tuesday.
Palladeno said the refurbished park will become a "showcase" for the city.