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Pinellas considers putting offices in shuttered Gulf Coast Museum of Art

The Gulf Coast Museum of Art suffered from low attendance and high costs.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2009)

The Gulf Coast Museum of Art suffered from low attendance and high costs.

The Gulf Coast Museum of Art has been mothballed for more than a year, its once sculptured courtyards and painting-lined halls stripped bare.

The hidden gem of the county's art scene closed in January 2009 because of anemic attendance after struggling for years. The building, with its classrooms and theater, defaulted into county hands.

But in Pinellas County planners' recent effort to consolidate county offices, the museum, tucked obscurely off Walsingham Road, has been named as a prospect for repurposing — as offices and labs for the county's Environmental Management Department.

While Largo city managers say the possibility of county offices moving there might not represent a particularly big boost to the city, Commissioner Harriet K. Crozier said she is excited to even see "Largo" on a county building.

"Just keep saying that name, 'Largo,' " Crozier said. "Hopefully some of the employees will consider moving here. The fact that they'll have Largo on the mailing address, that's good enough for me."

Paul Sacco, the county's director of real estate management, said while the plan still isn't 100 percent, the move could happen if there's money for it in the county's budget.

"We just have to renovate the space for office space. That department involves air quality, water quality and some administrative work. It can certainly accommodate the need," Sacco said.

About 70 employees would use the space.

And the building's unique architecture could be a plus.

"We can leave the open ceiling -— that's not going to hurt anything," Sacco said.

If an outside buyer steps in, that could change plans as well. If not, said county Administrator Bob LaSala on Tuesday, changes to the building wouldn't be extensive.

"Let me assure you that any renovations that would be done to accommodate a new county tenant in a county-owned facility will be done at very controlled and austere costs," LaSala said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at (727) 580-2951 or dtao@sptimes.com.

Pinellas considers putting offices in shuttered Gulf Coast Museum of Art 02/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 4:48pm]
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