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Plans for Largo community center hit a bump in the road

A traffic problem may derail the city's plans to build a new community center on Alternate Keene Road.

Henry Schubert, assistant city manager, told city commissioners the Alternate Keene Road location has a dangerous turn from East Bay Drive.

The traffic issue has prompted city officials to look into other, safer locations, such as Largo Central Park, the downtown area and the grounds of the Highland Recreation Center.

City commissioners said they were disappointed the problem hadn't been noticed sooner, especially after six months of planning to build at the Alternate Keene location.

"I'm really just kind of embarrassed to be having this discussion," Commissioner Gigi Arntzen said. "I will not support another location."

Last year, the Goodman Group, the developer of the Palms of Largo retirement community, offered the city 8.5 acres of land on the east side of Alternate Keene Road so that it could build the center.

Mayor Pat Gerard said she was especially disconcerted that no one from the city had notified the Goodman Group that other locations were being considered.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier agreed. "I can't believe we're doing something like this without talking to them," she said. "I don't want to move from (the original location), but if we had to for some reason, that would be my last resort. Maybe we should have sat down and thought about (the traffic issue) earlier."

Also Tuesday, James Hosler of TBE Group, an engineering consultant, discussed possible areas for development and shared findings from a new market feasibility study performed for the Largo Mall.

The group looked at land within a 1.5-mile radius of the mall.

"What we found in this area was modest economic potential," said Hosler. "We don't like to look out for it. We like to find golden eggs under every tree."

One of those golden eggs in the Largo Mall area is a large piece of vacant property owned by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Other land surveyed also has potential, but builders say they can't maximize the potential on their own.

"In order for the area to turn around, it is going to need some positive government intervention," Hosler said.

The biggest problem the mall faces is maintaining the quality and quantity of its tenants, especially given added competition from the newly proposed Largo Towne Center, Hosler said.

The mall also does not have a good location that separates it from other local shopping centers, the report said.

It is too soon to tell what the exact development plans for the Largo Mall area will be, or how much they would cost.

"As of right now, it's too conceptual to pin that down," said Robert Klute, the city's assistant community development director.

Plans for Largo community center hit a bump in the road 04/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 1:48pm]
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