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Senior center plan shows Largo's foresight

After so much discussion and indecision, it is great to see the Largo City Commission moving aggressively forward with a plan to build a new community center that will provide programming specially designed for senior citizens.

Commissioners approved the contract for architectural and engineering services last month, and the city plans to break ground for the 30,000-square-foot center next summer.

It will be built on Alternate Keene Road, just north of East Bay Drive and just west of the private Palms of Largo senior living complex. The almost 9-acre site for the center is being donated by the Goodman Group, a Minnesota-based company that owns the Palms of Largo.

Before the Goodman Group offered the land last summer, Largo commissioners had spent years talking about how to solve their community center problem. The current center is downtown on Fourth Street on a block that the city considers prime for development of typical downtown uses. The city hopes to interest a developer in building a project on the block.

The Community Center also is outdated, and will require increasingly costly upkeep. Commissioners decided to replace it, but where?

The old Largo library building in Largo Central Park was considered, and then discarded because of the high cost of renovating the building. Other locations were occasionally floated as possibilities.

City commissioners were wowed last summer when the Goodman Group offered the land, saying it wanted to do something for the city that had been so good for the company. Surely, the city had found a home for the new community center.

However, when some people raised concerns about traffic exiting onto East Bay Drive, commissioners and some residents began wondering whether it would be better to put the community center somewhere else — such as beside or adjoining the nearby Highland Recreation Complex. Others didn't like that idea at all, saying that doing so would overcrowd the Highland complex or that combining a senior center with a rec center could result in conflicts between youths and seniors.

Fortunately, a majority of the commission finally settled on the Goodman Group's donated land. Accepting the donation adds a valuable property to the city's inventory without the taxpayers having to buy it; retains space at the Highland complex for future expansions of recreational infrastructure; and places the new community center next door to the Palms of Largo, where it will be easy to do joint programming with that facility.

With the plan now solidified, Largo seniors can look forward to a new facility far superior to the downtown location and an expansion of programming that was not possible in the old facility. It is icing on the cake that Largo commissioners voted to pay a little extra and make the new community center a certified "green" building, which will help to grow the city's environmental credentials.

Senior center plan shows Largo's foresight 12/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 1, 2008 8:16pm]
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