Largo City Hall

A proposal to move City Hall to downtown Largo would include demolishing the current City Hall at 201 Highland Ave. City officials say the 46-year-old building needs extensive renovations, is not hurricane survivable and is no longer large enough to accommodate the future growth of staff.

LARGO — A $25 million project to move City Hall back downtown took a small step forward Oct. 15 when city commissioners gave staff the green light to negotiate a contract with its top-ranked architectural firm for the first phase of the undertaking.

The firm, ASD | SKY, was one of six that submitted proposals to help the city craft its vision for a multistory, mixed-use city hall somewhere downtown. 

After conducting face-to-face interviews in late September, city staff chose ASD | SKY, which has offices in Tampa, over two other finalists, Perkins and Will and Harvard Jolly.

Principal architect John Curran said what sets the national design firm apart are its roots in interior design and inside-out approach.

“We design buildings that sort of bring people from the inside and bring them out and engage people on the street and bring their curiosity into the building,” said Curran, who also worked on the Highland Recreation Complex.

Curran said the firm is also accustomed to working on large projects, such as the new St. Petersburg Pier, which is expected to be completed in March. 

“We will be cutting a ribbon finally, so from a timing standpoint and moving on to this project I think is very relevant,” he said.

He said ASD is also designing Sparkman Wharf in Tampa, which is expected to wrap up in May 2020.

“We’re basically transforming and changing what was old Channelside Bay Plaza into a mixed-use class A office building that actually brings the outside in and the inside out, so there’s an engaging kind of public space environment with a corporate workspace area,” he said.

City leaders hope the project will also inject life into their downtown, providing a catalyst for private-sector investment.

City Manager Henry Schubert has said the move also makes sense because the current City Hall, which is 46 years old, has numerous problems.

The 57,740-square-foot facility on Highland Avenue that the city moved into in April 2000 was originally constructed as corporate offices for a financial services company, and now has issues with the heating, air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems.

It is also no longer big enough for the 180 employees that work there, is in a flood-prone location and couldn’t survive a strong hurricane, Schubert said.

The first phase

The $150,000-plus Phase I will feature several projects, including evaluating potential sites in downtown for the building and associated parking structure. Studies must be performed to determine parking and current and future space needs. The amount of space for commercial tenants on at least the first floor must also be determined. 

And all of it must be done while incorporating feedback from the commission, administration and public.

Curran said his team will be spending a lot of time on public forums and workshops to come up with design concepts.

“As we go through this process, it’s going to be a very collaborative process,” he said. “We’re going to spend the time here in the city of Largo in many cases camping out and working with various groups.”

The contract, however, doesn’t guarantee ASD will get to design the facility, which will happen in Phase II, followed by the final phase, construction.

In the city’s request for qualifications, it states the initial contract is for Phase I services only, but positive results could bring about contracts for more work.

City staff will now begin negotiations with ASD for the initial contract, which is expected to be brought back to the City Commission in December.