tampabay.com

City Hall could move to downtown

The Wachovia Bank building would offer better use of space plus wheelchair access.

By MINDY RUBENSTEIN
Published March 27, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - Officials are considering buying the Wachovia Bank building for use as a new City Hall, a move that could alleviate a space crunch and put the city offices in the heart of a growing downtown.

"We have needs for City Hall," City Manager Steve Spina said at a Monday workshop. "We've outgrown our space. That's what's driving some of it."

The bank building at 38421 Fifth Ave. has about 8,000 square feet, making it comparable to the current City Hall. But Spina said the bank offers a better use of space, and has wheelchair access, which the current City Hall lacks.

Spina said the drive-through lanes could be used for services such as paying utility bills. And a City Hall downtown would be more in line with Zephyrhills' plans to develop the area, officials say.

What would happen to the existing City Hall? Officials on Monday discussed the possibility of converting it into a library, to replace the 4,000-square-foot Zephyrhills library, which was built in the 1960s.

But that's just one option. The city already bought 10 acres across from the Zephyrhills Police Department on Eighth Street with plans to build a state-of-the-art library there. Council member Kenneth Compton wanted to press forward with those plans for a $5.6-million, 18,000-square-foot library.

"It's critical that this whole things starts with a first-class dominant library, then if there's money left over, it can go toward City Hall relocation downtown," Compton said. "I don't know how you're going to do it, but you certainly have my endorsement to do so."

Regardless of which direction the city takes, Spina and other employees are ready for a decision.

"I'm pretty nervous about what's coming down the pike, and I'd like to have a firmer idea," Spina said.

Ultimately he wants to purchase the bank building, clear out City Hall and replace it with a library. But the city had contacted a consultant who said City Hall would not work as a library without significant restoration or replacing the building completely.

The city has also discussed plans for a new performing arts center, the location and size of which have yet to be decided. An upcoming $50,000 feasibility study will determine the fate of that project.

City planner Todd Vande Berg said his department will come up with a 10-year master plan for downtown development and a list of priorities.

"In the next 10 years," he said, "we'll probably grow out as far as we're going to go."