CLEARWATER — After more than 10 years of discussion between the city and Pinellas County about building a joint municipal center, the two governments this week took the next step on weighing three potential sites.
The city and county will split the cost of a $74,868 feasibility study evaluating three downtown locations: the city-owned lots at Pierce Street and Myrtle Avenue and Franklin Street and Myrtle Avenue; the county's utility building at 14 S Fort Harrison Ave. coupled with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's bus terminal nearby on Park Street; and the county-owned parking lots at East Avenue and Turner Street.
The study will take Williamson-Dacar Associates consultants eight weeks to complete and will detail the costs and viability of each site, said Pinellas County real estate management director Andrew Pupke.
A 2008 study concluded a joint county/city building would save in operating costs and leverage better space with shared conference rooms, chambers, broadcast capabilities and amenities. But discussions on the project lagged over the past decade.
The wing of the county government building at 315 Court St. that houses administration, legal, commissioners, property appraiser and tax collector offices dates back to 1963, Pupke said. It's not yet determined whether other county offices currently housed in other locations would be moved into the joint facility.
About 50 employees are scheduled to vacate the more than 50-year-old City Hall building on the downtown Bluff next week. The move will free the site to be redeveloped into a retail or residential project as called for in the city's roughly $50 million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment project, which is overhauling the 66 acres west of downtown with gardens, greenspace, a revamped concert venue and a gateway plaza.
Until a new government facility is built, City Hall will be housed for at least the next five years in the sixth floor of One Clearwater Tower at 600 Cleveland Street, a private office tower owned by downtown investor Daniels Ikajevs.
Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell said plans to demolish City Hall so the site can be redeveloped are not yet determined. While the city is free to demolish the building at any time, any redevelopment project on the charter-protected property at 112 S. Osceola Ave. would have to be approved by voters in a referendum.
Another complication to the timeline is the PSTA's plans for a new facility to replace the aging bus terminal on Park Street and free up that site for a possible government building. The PSTA is developing plans to build a new bus terminal on the city-owned vacant lot at Myrtle Avenue and Court Street but is not expected to break ground until at least 2021.
Contact Tracey McManus at email@example.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.