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Towne Center gets city nod

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published May 12, 2007


LARGO - The Largo City Commission has given tentative approval for an ambitious multi-use, high-density development for the 40-acre parcel where Crossroads Mall once stood.

Presented to Largo commissioners Tuesday night, the $145-million plan for the Largo Towne Center includes apartments above shops, a five-story parking garage, several large retailers and an amphitheater at its core. It will sit at the prominent corner of Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19 N.

"It will be place to live, shop and work, " said John Sabow, director of development for Boulder Venture South, LCC, which owns the land and spent 18 months trying to sell the city on a development plan. "Most importantly, it will be a place to celebrate Largo."

Commissioners questioned Sabow on whether the project would have affordable housing, its traffic impact and its public-transit access before giving the staff orders to begin negotiating a development agreement with Boulder Venture.

"The last 18 months, there have been some hurdles, " Sabow said, noting his company has been through 30 to 40 versions of proposals with city staff. "But it looks like we are getting close."

Sabow said the project could open in summer 2009.

The current plan calls for 64, 000 square feet of retail, 21, 000 feet of office space, and 255 residential units.

Sabow said that he is in talks with "major, major national retailers" and that commissioners "will be pleasantly surprised." Sabow said he could not at this time reveal the retailers.

There will be multi-level retail and office spaces with condominiums or apartments on upper floors. The goal is to attract residents who like to walk, both the young and retired, but they do not plan to not market to families.

The property will feature sidewalks, diagonal parking and wide streets and will have a Pinellas County Transit System Agency transit station. Outdoor seating is planned for restaurants on the first and second floors. A grand staircase will be prominently displayed, and a small circular amphitheater is intended to draw intimate crowds. The development's main street is designed to be easily closed for festivals and public events. There will be a plaza with a water fountain and some public art.

Commissioner Mary Gray Black questioned whether Boulder Venture would be willing to incorporate a memorial to notable Americans, which she has been pushing the City of Largo to build.

"I particularly like the plaza area, " Black said. "I wonder if we could entice you to work with the city to maybe put in a plaza for Americans?"

Sabow said his company would be more than willing to consider it.

Demorris A. Lee at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com