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    North Greenwood library site debated

    At issue is whether the premier part of the current Jack Russell Stadium site should be home to a library or some other redevelopment project.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- The corner of North Greenwood Avenue and Palmetto Street, the two major roads through the North Greenwood community, is an "A-plus" corner for economic redevelopment, according to some city officials.

    But the crossroads also is the proposed home of a new, $1.2-million North Greenwood Library, because that's what residents of North Greenwood want.

    "We think it will be more attractive having (the library) on the premier corner," said Muhammad Abdur-Rahim, president of the North Greenwood Association. The vast majority of residents at a special community forum this past weekend told city officials that too.

    City commissioners are now weighing whether to use the corner -- a portion of the current site of Jack Russell Stadium -- for the branch library.

    The other option is to move the branch slightly south and use the Palmetto corner to anchor some kind of redevelopment project for the 16.3-acre, city-owned stadium land.

    Commissioners will vote on the 1-acre library site at their regular meeting Tuesday.

    Commissioners seem to be leaning toward using the prime corner for the library, said interim City Manager Bill Horne. But Commissioners Ed Hart and Bob Clark have expressed concerns about how that will affect future redevelopment projects.

    Bob Keller, assistant city manager for economic redevelopment, also said the city needs to be sensitive to future possibilities for the stadium site as it decides what part of the land to use for the new library.

    The city expects to receive a $35,000 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, which the city will match with $35,000 of its own money, to study how to redevelop Jack Russell after the Philadelphia Phillies move to a new city spring training stadium by 2004.

    "In broadest terms, we need to make sure that nothing we do in the short term obliterates possibilities in the long term," Keller said. He was still reviewing the pros and cons of library sites on the Jack Russell property Tuesday.

    There are plenty of possibilities for future redevelopment at the Jack Russell site, including an office park for companies that do light manufacturing or produce technology-driven products like software, Keller said.

    Abdur-Rahim said his community is also interested in the idea of using the land for a shopping center, entertainment venue or possibly a top-notch apartment development.

    But there are potential barriers to redevelopment, Keller said.

    The stadium land has access to railroad tracks nearby, but poor access for trucks. Also, it's designated as recreational space by the city, which means that under Clearwater's charter, city referendum approval will be needed to allow any change in the use of the land.

    Keller said that the corner where the library is likely to go, on Palmetto and North Greenwood, is the kind of high-visibility location that could make it easier to market the land to private developers.

    From the community's perspective, however, the Palmetto Street corner is better for the library because it's a block closer to schools, Szabo said.

    Also, if the library were located on the southwest corner of the Jack Russell site, it would be next to an automotive repair business and warehouses, which would make it less attractive to some neighborhood residents.

    Still, either location could work for the library, Szabo said.

    The 8,000-square-foot library will include an expanded African-American collection, as well as more space for the children's area and a new community meeting room.

    Szabo said the branch will open by early 2002, or perhaps in late 2001, across from a recreational complex and new community pool that the city is building on the west side of North Greenwood Avenue.

    The city listened to the North Greenwood community's wishes once before this year and decided to put the library on the Jack Russell site in the first place -- although some city administrators wanted to squeeze it in with the recreational complex destined for across the street.

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