DUNEDIN — Green space, public art, water features, reuse of bricks, preservation of trees. A place for respite.

City officials are mulling over concepts for the use of the property at 542 Main St. once City Hall has been demolished.

They also emphasized at a City Commission work session Feb. 7 that the process in determining the reuse of property will take time, and public participation is important.

City officials consider the building, constructed in the 1940s, to be obsolete. Funding for the demolition has been estimated in memos between $40,000 and $90,000.

The City Hall site has grand oaks and other mature trees that are critical to preserve and protect, a city memo said. Plans will address appropriate approaches to building demolition.

Commissioners gave staff consensus approval to proceed with demolition.

A tree preservation plan is expected to drive the terms and conditions for building demolition and be a guide for the reuse of the site. 

"Delicate demolition" is how Deputy City Manager Jorge Quintas described the work, noting it's more labor intensive and expensive than using heavy equipment.

After demolition, city officials want to implement an interim plan for the property. The building's pad is expected to remain to protect oak roots. A brick wall and walkway will remain along with most trees, including the signature grand oak tree in the front of city hall.

"I think everything is impacted by that slab," City Manager Jennifer Bramley said. "And so we once we know about that we can talk to you a little bit about conceptual plans moving forward and how we can engage the public. We will probably do that in the summertime," Bramley said.

Commissioner Jeff Gow thinks there is plenty of time to decide what should be done with the park.

"I'm more focused on the demolition and how that works. I rather actually take our time to let demolition happen and we can continue to talk about concepts later," Gow said.

He said the amenities that he believes are missing are some playground equipment for young adults and their children. Though there is playground equipment at Edgewater Park, he said city officials need to think about families living in the urban area who come downtown, where there is no type of playground.

Once the building has been removed city officials will have a chance to breathe and determine what they want on the property, Commissioner Moe Freaney said.

"Green spaces, trees, brick. We got three ingredients that are amazing, right off the top," she said.

Local art and "a sense of place" should be embraced, said city Commissioner Robert Walker, adding that he likes water features, too, and reutilizing bricks for the park.

"I think green space, shade, seating, respite ... are exactly the concepts that need to go into this," Walker said.

Commissioner John Tornga sees the property as a relaxation place, with some amenities, saying "it's great opportunity to just have a place to sit."

Mayor Julie Bujalski agreed with comments commissioners made and added that bathrooms will be needed because she doesn't believe people are going to walk a block over to the new city hall to use bathrooms.

"They might not even know it's there," Bujalski said. "And it's only open during the week."

 She likes the idea of having a water feature at the future park but noted that it takes up space. She said that in another area where she visited there are sprinklers in the ground that shoots water into the air and can be turned on and off.

"It doesn't take away usable space for somebody to park a chair there," Bujalski said.

She thinks it would be fun to have a contest for the community to name the park and award a prize to the person who selected the name that city officials chose.

A central space for artistic expression, “nod” to history, strategic use of lighting and power, more shade and seating and a parking area for bicycles are among the elements for the park suggested in concept plan by Stantec, city's consulting firm on the project.

Bob Ironsmith, city economic, housing and CRA director, said he believes city officials will learn a lot from the interim plan, with city commissioners' input. City officials got consensus approval to proceed with plans for demolition, which could occur in the summer.

"Frankly, there is a lot more work to be done," Ironsmith said. "That's the nature of it, and that's fine, and that's why we do what we do."


In other news

Bramley said temporary improvements have been made at the downtown crossing on Edgewater Drive near the marina. A 79-year-old pedestrian was killed at the intersection Jan. 7.

Flashing lights have been installed that signal if there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, Bramley said.

"I've used the crosswalk several times myself. It does appear to be working. The vehicles are stopping, where they didn't stop before — where there was a pedestrian. The pedestrian would have to wait. It has modified the traffic circulation in that area," she said.

An additional analysis is needed to determine how effective the flashing lights are, Bramley said, adding that the Florida Department of Transportation is working on a permanent solution.

"I commend the county, FDOT and the city of Dunedin as well for everybody working together to get it done quickly to address some of those safety concerns in that area, but there is still more work to be done, and we will keep you updated," Bramley said.