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    A new downtown may soon emerge

    A reputable developer has started work on a village of homes, shops and a park.

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 24, 2002

    LARGO -- You may just see chain-link fencing and a mound of dirt at the moment, but that's significant.

    The transformation of downtown Largo has begun. That's what Largo's Main Street Association and city officials say about the construction that started last week on the Historic West Bay Village development.

    After months of planning, Hyde Park Builders Inc. closed on the first of three pieces of property on West Bay Drive last Thursday morning. By that afternoon, it had a fence around the area and broke ground on the old City Hall site. It also set dates for the opening of a model home and for each segment of the project.

    The company is living up to its promise to the city to move quickly on the development, said Terry Moore, manager of Largo's Main Street Association.

    "They're moving fairly fast," she said. "Everybody knew that once (Hyde Park Builders) got the property, they would be gung-ho to get it done."

    The development consists of three pieces of property: a commercial area with 26,000 square feet for neighborhood retail, a park with a bandstand gazebo, and two residential areas that will consist of 54 luxury city homes.

    Workers have started on the footing for the first group of residences and will begin putting down the foundations soon, said Scott Shimberg, executive vice president of Hyde Park Builders.

    Although no businesses have signed leases, several have shown interest in the space, he said.

    "This project is going to revitalize the whole downtown," he said.

    The model home will be ready for tours in time for the Main Street Association's annual Art Hop fundraiser on Feb. 8, Moore said.

    People will be able to move into the first group of homes by March, Shimberg said. Construction on the park will begin in a few weeks, and it should be ready by spring, he said. The commercial area will be open for retailers to move in by the holiday season next year.

    Moore said the project is vital for downtown because it will serve as the first step in revitalizing the strip of businesses that form Largo's Main Street area.

    "We're so excited because we know that whatever happens on that site will be the heart of our downtown," she said.

    City planner Franco Saraceno said he hopes the project will encourage other businesses to move downtown.

    "It's going to be a very high-quality development," he said. "The hope is that it's going to spur more redevelopment in the district. There are a lot of areas that are ripe for development, and we hope West Bay Village is a catalyst."

    -- Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 445-4224 or at .

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