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Plans for Northwest Regional Library site still on the shelf

The building remains in limbo while HCC considers turning it into a branch campus, and community members push for a tag office or sheriff's substation.

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000


NORTHDALE -- With a new regional library off Bearss Avenue set to open early next year, the fate of the Northwest Regional Library building remains in limbo.

For the last six months, a proposal has been on the table that would turn the beleaguered building into a branch campus of Hillsborough Community College. But no movement has been made to formalize the deal as HCC officials consider other locations in north Tampa.

"We're still looking at other sites up here in northwest Hillsborough County," said HCC senior vice president of operations Rob Wolf. "We're still waiting to see what unfolds."

Wolf said the college is also talking to community leaders in Town 'N Country and Westchase about possible sites.

HCC is looking for a temporary home in the northwest part of the county to help ease overcrowded classes. With an enrollment of about 40,000 students, about 800 of those took college courses in classrooms rented at Gaither High School.

Northdale Civic Association president Chris Cook said the community would welcome HCC for a limited time, but residents ultimately would like to see the building become a public service center.

"It would take about $500,000 worth of work (for HCC) to bring the building up to the point where they could use it as classrooms, and they'll need a long-term lease in order to get a capital improvements bond," Cook said. "I know the people of Northdale would be against that."

Cook said a satellite campus would be a good temporary tenant for the next four or five years, "until the county has the money to bring that building into a public service function. That's where the strongest interest lies in the community."

In a series of community meetings, Northdale residents made it clear they want the building used as a social services center. That could include a license tag renewal office, a tax collector's office and possibly a sheriff's substation.

Cook is particularly keen on the tag office idea. He spent much of Wednesday morning driving 12 miles to the nearest office on Hillsborough Avenue.

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Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or mabe@sptimes.com.

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