LARGO — The door opened this past year to plenty of redevelopment and roadway projects.
One of the most anticipated of those projects was in the downtown area, where elected officials and community leaders gathered in June to break ground on West Bay Lofts, a $48.8 million mixed-use project that includes a five-story building on the 500 block of West Bay Drive and a three-story building on the 600 block.
The project will be comprised of 123 market-rate apartments above 40,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space in both buildings. The facility also will include rooftop solar power installations, the region’s first automated valet parking garage and a bridge on the second floor connecting the two structures.
Major road projects
In that same area, construction began in October on a $3.51 million project to repair and improve the downtown section of West Bay Drive.
The work on the half-mile stretch of road from Missouri Avenue to Clearwater-Largo Road is expected to be completed by August.
The project’s scope includes new lighting, sidewalks, benches, bike racks and bus shelters; construction of two new midblock crossings, and milling, resurfacing, and re-striping of the asphalt.
The first part of a two-phase project to transform Rosery Road into a multimodal corridor also finally got underway in September.
Phase 1 of the $7 million-plus project will make a number of repairs and improvements to the corridor’s 0.8-mile stretch from the Pinellas Trail to Missouri Avenue. Phase 2 will be done at a later date and will provide similar improvements between Missouri Avenue and Eagle Lake Park.
The entire 0.8-mile stretch of road will be shut down for about 17 months for the project.
While those projects ramped up, another one finished in July when construction was completed on the $5 million Trotter Road reconstruction project that had been underway for 16 months.
The road, which is just west of Taylor Park, had been closed for construction since March 2018 while the city’s contractor worked to improve the 0.7-mile stretch from Eighth Avenue Southwest to Hillsdale Avenue Southwest.
Housing, hotel on the way
In August, construction commenced on a new Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel across the street from Largo Mall. The five-story hotel, which will be constructed on 2.3 acres at 10125 Ulmerton Road, will contain 118 rooms and is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2020.
The property, which was once the home of an Achieva Credit Union branch, also will include house Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Wingstop restaurants, Club Pilates and an auto parts store.
The Clearwater-Largo Road will be the home to a pair of major housing complexes.
Less than a month after the groundbreaking of a 224-unit apartment complex along the corridor, city leaders approved a pair of redevelopment incentives April 16 that paved the way for the construction of a 255-unit complex on the northern end of the road.
The four-story complex will rise up at the 9.1-acre site of Clearwater Trailer City.
Sprucing up downtown
Since the private sector has been slow in investing in downtown, city leaders have decided to light the spark themselves when they announced in April a $25 million five-year plan to move City Hall back downtown by constructing a mixed-use municipal complex with a public parking garage.
City Manager Henry Schubert said the move makes sense not only because it sends a message to potential investors, but also because the current City Hall, which is 46 years old, has numerous problems, including issues with the heating, air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems.
Also under construction on the east end of West Bay Drive is a project that city officials will serve as a gateway element to downtown.
On Aug. 6, commissioners unanimously approved a $505,845 contract with Seffner-based BrightView Landscape Development to construct a new plaza that will include a landmark feature featuring a large internally lit “Largo” sign in front of a monument made of a wire green screen encompassed by glass discs lit by LEDs.
Pole signs can stay
An issue that created a lot of contention ended up with what city leaders called a compromise.
A round of applause broke out April 2 after city leaders voted to repeal a nearly 12-year-old deadline to ban pole signs that was just two months from going into effect.
Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance that both eliminated the deadline and strengthened the city’s code to expedite the transition to monument signs.
If commissioners didn’t eliminate the June deadline, the city would have had to fine nearly 600 property owners for not transitioning their pole signs to monument signs, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Instead, the commission decided to amend the code so that signs now must meet minimum appearance standards, including the foundation, rust, dents, holes, exposed electrical components and proper landscaping.