Stirling Hall, built in 1956 and mostly vacant for a decade, will be replaced with stores and homes.
By MEGAN SCOTT
Published October 11, 2004
DUNEDIN - Over the past four decades, Stirling Hall has hosted everything from teen dances to dog obedience school.
As the Dunedin Youth Center, kids used to go there to play pingpong. Later, the social hall became a place for square-dancers to do-si-do.
But now the two-story, 10,000-square-foot building constructed in 1956 is being torn down and replaced with a mix of retail space and condominiums.
"It's a nice piece on Broadway across from Douglas Village," said Bob Ironsmith, economic development director. "It is only 50 to 60 feet from Main Street. We're all kind of excited. I think this will add some synergy to the downtown."
The Dunedin company, Lehigh-Broadway, recently purchased the half-acre site on Broadway for $900,000. It intends to construct a mixed-use development with retail on the bottom floor, a parking garage on the second floor and 16 condos on the third. The condos would be marketed for mid-income couples.
Those plans are preliminary, said Kelly Prior, a partner with Lehigh-Broadway. But he said the company is envisioning 9,000 square feet of retail and upper-level condos ranging from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet. The height of the complex will be about 50 feet.
"The big thing is to figure out the parking and traffic flow before you get into what does the building look like," Prior said. "Part of the problem in areas like that is the land is so expensive, people tend to want very large condos because they are paying a substantial amount per unit."
Stirling Hall has been mostly vacant for the past decade.
The previous owner, Burt Thomas, bought the property in 1997 for about $327,000. He was planning to develop the property but chose to sell it instead.
The property had been on the market for a few years before the sale, Ironsmith said. Although it attracted some attention, a deal never closed.
Prior said that was because the site was priced too high. His company waited a few years for the demand to catch up with the quoted price.
"In the real estate market we're in, if you don't keep raising the price, eventually the price catches up with you," he said.
Prior has his own memories of Dunedin Youth Center.
He used to go there to play basketball as a teenager. He remembers a concrete floor painted like a basketball court.
The building got the name Stirling Hall in 1964 when Dunedin formed a partnership with Stirling, Scotland. It was a way to honor Dunedin's new sister city, said Vinnie Luisi, director of the historical society.
"Before a lot of other buildings were built, they were headquartered in that building," he said. "It was set up through Parks and Recreation. It was the place where the city had its dances and Halloween parties."
Despite the history, the building is not worth saving, Prior said.
The walls are deteriorating, and Dunedin has plans to construct new and improved community centers: the 18,000-square-foot King Center, which will replace the 25-year-old Stirling Recreation Center, and a 54,000-square-foot community center at Highlander Park.
Plus, Dunedin wants to see more mixed-use developments downtown, said Ironsmith. Such projects attract foot traffic to shops and restaurants.
"Another big asset is the Pinellas Trail," Prior said. "From our location, you're literally a block and a half from the marina and waterfront. It's a landmark kind of location. We're going to try to come up with architecture that reflects this is a building that is here to stay in Dunedin."