OLDSMAR — Next door to City Hall, there's a dusty vacant lot where city leaders envision a new development called Market Square — a plaza and downtown gathering place that would be ringed by shops and restaurants.
And next door to that, there's an abandoned Goodrich aerospace facility that has been vacant since the company left town.
Now Oldsmar intends to buy the Goodrich property and add it to the city's downtown holdings — a significant step, city officials say, toward redeveloping downtown.
The City Council voted this week to spend $1.45 million for the site, which was listed for sale at $1.6 million and was once on the block for $4 million.
The property takes up most of two blocks between State Street and Tampa Road, and between Fairfield Street and Washington Avenue, said City Manager Bruce Haddock.
"We identified that piece of property a long time ago as something that was on our radar," Mayor Jim Ronecker said in an interview Thursday. "We've acquired a lot of land downtown. We've got a vision of making that a vibrant area — mixed use, with residential and commercial all in one."
The way city officials envision it, the Market Square development would be anchored by a new park — a lawn space fronting on State Street, with an interactive fountain area covered by a removable shade sail.
Immediately surrounding the park would be future development sites where two-story retail buildings would theoretically spring up.
The city has no money earmarked to build the park at this point. It will buy the Goodrich property with money from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which gets to keep property taxes generated by rising property values in the redevelopment area.
"This is probably one of the most incredible events to face a city of any size," said Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland, "to be able to buy a property of that magnitude next to what we want to do with that whole area."
Goodrich Lighting Systems, one of the largest aerospace lighting companies in the world, had occupied that downtown property since 1991. The company makes landing, taxi and emergency lights and the "No Smoking/Fasten Seat Belt" signs in airplanes. About 90 local jobs were lost when Goodrich announced in 2010 that it was closing its Oldsmar facility.
Meanwhile, Oldsmar has been working steadily for years to refurbish its downtown. The Oldsmar Galleria, a stylish-looking wedge of stores, offices and condos, opened in 2006 but has struggled to fill its storefronts. The Oldsmar Public Library opened in 2008, intended to serve as a downtown anchor. There was a pedestrian-friendly makeover of St. Petersburg Drive in 2011.
City officials have signaled that they're interested in buying more property as well.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.