tampabay.com

Virtual tour brings planned Largo Towne Center to life

The developer hopes to start work on the mixed-use project by March.

By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
Published September 12, 2007


LARGO - City leaders recently took a virtual tour of the planned Largo Towne Center, the megadevelopment set to replace the former Crossroads Mall, and they liked what they saw.

"It's like a dream come true. We've waited so long for this," said Commissioner Gigi Arntzen. "It's going to put Largo in a whole new perspective. We'll finally become a destination point."

Developers with Boulder Venture South LLC first proposed a $145-million mixed-use town center on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19 two years ago.

Since then, the project has encountered various hurdles. But John Sabow, director of development for Boulder Venture, now says the plan is moving forward and he hopes to break ground by February or March.

The Boulder Venture project would take a defunct mall and create a true urban environment, Largo Community Development Director Mike Staffopoulos said.

"This should truly be unique both to Largo and Pinellas County," Staffopoulos said. "It will hopefully be the live, work, play environment the city has been hoping for."

The Towne Center, specially designed to be pedestrian-friendly, includes about 257 homes, about 630,000 square feet of retail and a multistory parking garage.

The development also will feature a town center, a gathering place where the city plans to hold special events. Near the center, a street will be easily closed off for festivals and public events.

Last week, Staffopoulos showed city leaders a video presentation prepared for Boulder Venture by Weingarten Realty Investors.

The video tour, which is available through the city's Web site, brings viewers into the center from its western edge. To the left, you see two-story shops painted a creamy yellow and accented by palm trees. As you head east, people stroll near another row of two-story shops and a man waves as you pass by. Pulling up to an intersection, you see the town center with lots of people milling about. A woman crosses the street and behind her you see more trees and a four-story residential structure.

The camera pans through the town center and you see more people, more shops and restaurants, kiosks and an American flag blowing in the breeze. The camera brings you up to a second-story balcony where you get a bird's-eye view of the entire development. The camera then rotates through the bustling town center, where groups congregate at tables and near benches. The presentation closes with a couple hugging as the sun sets.

"I was awed. It was very exciting to live in Largo for over 35 years and see something like that," Vice Mayor Harriet Crozier.

"It will definitely be one of the nicest areas in Pinellas once it's completed," said Commissioner Andy Guyette.

The project has met with various setbacks over the past couple of years.

Cepcot Corp., a subsidiary of the Pinch-A-Penny pool retailing company, plans to build its headquarters on adjacent land. Shortly after Boulder proposed the project, the company opposed the construction of an industrial facility next to its town center. But the parties worked out that matter.

Then, the company submitted 30 to 40 versions of proposals to city staff members, who were focused on the creation of a walkable mixed-use community.

More recently, the company has been working with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to mitigate traffic issues resulting from the high-density project, Staffopoulos said.

The city staff hopes to present a draft of a development agreement for the project to the City Commission on Oct. 23 and a final agreement to commissioners Nov. 20.

The project aligns with the city's long-term goals of concentrating commercial and mixed-use development near the old Crossroads Mall, Largo Mall and downtown.

"We're hoping it's a catalyst for other developers to come in and work in other activity centers, particularly Clearwater-Largo Road," said City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 727 445-4155.

Fast facts

Largo Towne Center

Homes: About 257

Retail space: About 630,000 square feet.

Parking: About 2,500 spaces

Virtual tour: Want to take a tour of Largo Towne Center? Go to http://209.43.125.200/egov/docs/1188945080231.htm and click on staff report item 31.