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Oldsmar approves property sale, swap

City officials have approved a land swap that will result in Oldsmar paying $660,000 for the SouthTrust Bank property next to City Hall on the western end of State Street.

City officials have yet to determine what they will do with the old bank branch.

"I think it would make a great location for a library," City Manager Bruce Haddock said.

The deal approved this week involves three parties: the city, SouthTrust Bank and the Oldsmar Town Center development.

Using a loan from SouthTrust, the city will purchase a 1.1-acre corner lot at the Oldsmar Town Center, a 6-acre commercial development at Tampa Road and St. Petersburg Drive. The city will then exchange that lot for the 1.2-acre SouthTrust property on State Street.

The result will be that the bank gets to relocate its branch to a highly visible lot on Tampa Road in the Oldsmar Town Center, and the city gets the bank property on State Street. The deal will expand City Hall's land ownership in the downtown area.

"It's one of those rare events," Haddock said. "Win, win, win."

The city already owns property on both sides of the SouthTrust branch on State Street, Haddock said. "By acquiring that, we will own the whole block."

The city has not identified a site for a new library, but Haddock has said he thinks it ought to go in the community development district. This year, city officials identified $2.257-million in Penny for Pinellas funds to design and build a library.

The existing library at 101 State St. W is more than 80 years old and was the original home of the Oldsmar Bank. The city has finished a painstaking reconstruction of the library's north wall, but its east wall could require significant repairs within the next few years. Moreover, the building isn't big enough to accommodate children's programs, young-adult materials and Internet access terminals required by Oldsmar's rapidly growing population.

The city has hired an architect to do a space analysis and determine how big a new library would need to be. Construction of a new library is still two to three years away.

Once the new library is built, the current library building could be converted to city offices, perhaps with a new City Council chamber on the second floor. That floor has a series of high windows that would provide plenty of natural light.

Haddock said in June that the existing council chambers, which occupy a windowless building that once served as Oldsmar's post office, would probably be demolished once the new council chambers were finished.

City Council members unanimously approved the contract for the land swap Tuesday night.

According to the contract, the corner lot in the Oldsmar Town Center is valued at $900,000, but the developer, Randy Mears of Ranmar Development, will sell the lot to Oldsmar for $700,000. The city will pay $660,000 of that price, with SouthTrust chipping in for the remaining $40,000.

In return for selling the corner lot under market value to a municipality, Haddock said, Mears will be able to receive a $200,000 federal tax credit.

"There was some tax consideration that made the deal attractive for everybody to do the land swap," said Mears, who is the president and owner of Ranmar Development.

Oldsmar had two appraisals for the SouthTrust property on State Street. One appraisal placed the value of the site at $610,000 and another placed the value at $710,000. The city split the difference, Haddock said, and that's how Oldsmar came up with the $660,000 figure.

Council members are scheduled in December to discuss the SouthTrust loan the city will use to purchase the corner lot in the town center.

The new bank site will be yet another development in the $20-million town center project, which will resemble an outdoor mall. City officials hope the commercial development will anchor the east end of State Street.

Ranmar Development began leasing at the town center about a year ago and has had plenty of success.

The project has attracted an 81-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, which opened this year. Ranmar Development also is about to finish a two-story, 22,500-square-foot office and retail building, which is about 80 percent leased.

Tenants are expected to move into the building in December, including a Winner's Grill restaurant which is scheduled to open at the start of next year, Mears said.

The company also has plans to build a three-story, 40,000-square-foot office building with a three-story parking garage for BayCare Health System, the management entity for non-profit hospitals in the area. The building in Oldsmar will house BayCare's accounting services.

One of the town center's strengths, Mears said, is its location on Tampa Road and St. Petersburg Drive.

"The project, geographically, is in a great location," Mears said. "It's in, what I would consider, a power intersection in Oldsmar."

_ Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or quiocosptimes.com.

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