LARGO — In recent years, city officials have touted the transformation of the U.S. 19 and East Bay Drive/Roosevelt Boulevard intersection, citing major developments such as the Tri-City Plaza and Walmart Supercenter.
They say that area has much more potential, however, and hope to tap into it with a $120,000 plan designed to encourage development and improve safety of the corridors that are considered a significant transportation and economic backbone for both Largo and Pinellas County.
“The purpose of the Special Area Plan is to better plan for the future of this critical area in Largo,” Largo Planning Manager Rick Perez said.
Perez said the city has focused on the corridor for many years, but staff are now expanding their scope to examine about a 200-acre area encompassing the intersection.
“You have a lot of services around there that people depend on, not just local people but also in the county and in the larger area,” he said. “So, this Special Area Plan that we’re working on will help activate that major activity center and multimodal corridors identified by the county … so that we can enable redevelopment and additional development in that activity center.”
Perez said the city’s plan will work in tandem with the $1 million Gateway Master Plan being conducted by Forward Pinellas, the county’s transportation and land-use agency.
That plan, which the city contributed $100,000 to, aims to guide future development, redevelopment and multimodal connectivity in the 30-square-mile area to the east, and is close to being rolled out, according to Perez.
“We’re trying to capture the principles and objectives that come out of that plan, and our plan could essentially serve almost as a local implementation tool for that part of the Gateway that is within Largo,” he said.
Forward Pinellas agrees, which is why it decided to award the city a $50,000 grant to help establish the plan.
The private sector is also on board.
In a letter sent to Forward Pinellas in support of the project, Charlotte Manley, director of real estate for Kimco Realty Corp., which owns the Tri-City Plaza, said the plan is needed to support the vibrancy and economic viability of the activity center.
“Such a transformative change will attract new business investment, create jobs, attract customers for the retail and service providers in the area, and improve quality of life,” she said.
Perez said some of the focus will be on mixed-use elements and the development of underdeveloped or vacant parcels along Roosevelt Boulevard east of U.S. 19.
“Some of them are small, some of them have design challenges,” he said. “How can we optimize the buildout for those vacant parcels that will benefit the corridor and the larger activity center? You also have other parcels that are just underdeveloped or that they’re completely surrounded by development and they haven’t built for some reason. So, those are planning issues that we need to look at.”
Aside from commercial development, Perez added that they also will be looking at affordable housing opportunities and will be partnering with PSTA on what is a high-ridership corridor.
“They’re interested in working with us to support their ridership and make bus transit more accessible,” he said.
Another focus area on the east side of the city is the ICOT Center off Ulmerton Road, which is why the City Commission voted April 2 to repeal the region’s Master Plan, removing some development restrictions.
Robert Pergolizzi of Gulf Coast Consulting, who was representing the ICOT Center Master Association, urged the commission to make the move.
“This ICOT Center, which is a great economic engine for the city, has great potential for increased development within it,” he said.
Perez agrees and said the 20-year-old plan was outdated and didn’t reflect the city or county’s goals, so it will now fall under the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Code.
Under the city’s plan, “they do have more potential to expand those existing businesses and bring in more jobs.”