tampabay.com

'First of its kind' center is coming

The Largo Towne Center will go before planners Thursday, then to city leaders.

By Terri Bryce Reeves, Times Correspondent
Published February 20, 2008


There's been a lot of talk and anticipation about the Largo Towne Center, planned for the southeastern corner of Roosevelt Boulevard and U.S. 19.

Last week, Largo city staffers and development partners Weingarten Realty Investors and Boulder Venture South LLC put the finishing touches on the final draft of a development agreement for the 34-acre mixed-use project.

Designed to incorporate the principles of the "new urbanism," the center will feature a central plaza, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and spaces for living, working, shopping and playing.

A bus transfer station, which should help reduce the need for cars, is also included in the agreement.

"The center will be the first of its kind for Pinellas County. It's very unique," said Assistant City Manager Mike Staffopoulos, who answered questions about the long-awaited project.

What's the next step?

Thursday, the development agreement goes in front of the city's planning board, then on to the March 4 and 18 commission meetings for public hearings.

And the timetable?

If everything goes as planned, the utilities and infrastructure will be laid this spring and some retailers could be in business in time for Christmas. Construction could be complete within two years.

What's the goal of the project?

To create a walkable downtown environment within the city's suburban makeup.

What types of mixed-use will we see?

Currently, the proposed plan contains room for 258 apartment units, 30,000 square feet of office space and about 600,000 square feet of retail. The developer can change the mix according to market conditions.

What will the central plaza be like?

The area will include a small amphitheater-like area with sidewalks and seating where people can attend a jazz concert or poetry reading. Main Street may close periodically during special events to increase the size of the public gathering area to more than 2 acres.

What are the parking options?

There will be some street parking along storefronts and three parking garages, located behind the buildings. The idea is that when people leave the garage, they are in a pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

What about mass transit?

Plans include sheltered waiting areas and a bus transfer station that can accommodate up to five buses at one time.

Will there be affordable housing?

That's up to the developers. Current plans are to lease the apartments at market rate.

Will the project grow?

The roads are designed for possible future expansion to the east and south.

What are the city's obligations in the deal?

We have committed to provide one event or program each month. We showed some flexibility in the development standards regarding buffers, setback requirements and signs. Developers won't have to pay parkland dedication fees because of the central plaza and amenities provided in the apartment complex.

This is a private development, the city contributed no land and will have no say in the tenant mix.

How much is this expected to cost the developers?

Estimates are between $100-million and $150-million.

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at treeves@tampabay.rr.com