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Financial-service firm cools on Clearwater site

A building complex in downtown Clearwater is no longer among the lead contenders for a Largo financial services company that needs more space.

Western Reserve is considering sites ranging from 20 to 50 acres where it can build a 200,000-square-foot building right away and still have enough room to double that space in the future, said company chairman Jack Kenney.

In June, the possibility of buying and renovating the Clearwater Towers Complex was higher on the company's list. Kenney said this week that the Towers now ranks behind three other county sites where the firm could construct a new building.

Kenney declined to identify the sites, but he has said previously that the office parks Carillon and Park Place are being considered. Carillon is north of St. Petersburg and southeast of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Park Place is north of Clearwater Mall on State Road 60.

"One site we are prepared to make an offer on," he said this week.

"We have indications that we're definitely in the hunt," said Darryl LeClair, head of the company developing Carillon.

LeClair, president of Talquin Development Co., said Western Reserve is considering three proposals for Carillon property, ranging from 20 to 27 acres.

Carillon is a 432-acre project with offices and apartments that was started in the mid-1980s and includes such companies as Raymond James Financial Inc., Allstate Insurance Co. and Xerox.

Owners of property in Park Place could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Towers Complex haven't given up. "We're still having a dialogue" with Western Reserve, said Rich Whaley, chairman of MAS ONE Ltd., a Columbus, Ohio, partnership that owns the Towers complex.

Western Reserve, whose full name is Western Reserve Life, IDEX Mutual Funds, InterSecurities Inc., may make a decision by the end of the year, Kenney said.

The 650-employee company expects to employ 1,000 people in five years. Western Reserve's parent company, Aegon USAhas corporate offices in Baltimore and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A sister company from Petaluma, Calif., is being moved to the Pinellas County headquarters this fall, bringing about 150 jobs. Kenney said he thinks about 30 people will transfer and 120 jobs will be filled locally.