Dunedin architect's service has helped shape the community

Dan Massaro has served on numerous boards in Dunedin, including the Local Planning Agency since 1999.

DUNEDIN — City Commissioner Moe Freaney respects longtime Local Planning Agency member Dan Massaro so much she called the architect for his opinion on design issues involving the new city hall project.

"Basically, in every phase I got his views on it," Freaney said.

Massaro has been involved in the community he loves in many ways, such as serving on the city's planning agency since 1999.

The Chicago native, whose last term on the planning agency will expire in about 2 1/2 years, said his education and business background has been architecture and construction.

"So anything to do with development, I had an interest in," Massaro said.

A firm he worked for while he was living in Indiana opened an office in Florida in 1973.

"They asked me if he wanted to come down and run it — Dunedin, another small little town, and I've been very comfortable in small little towns. So I always wanted to part of something within the town. I wanted to give back," he said.

And he did, in a big way, serving on the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce board for 18 years and numerous other boards, from the original stadium task force to the Community Redevelopment Agency's citizens advisory board.

He was president and owner of Massaro & Associates Inc., designing and building financial institutions from 1985-2003.

His background and community involvement seems tailor made for anybody interested in running for a City Commission seat.

Has he ever considered being a candidate?

"I have been asked that question," he said. "Everybody's personality is a little different. Not that I wouldn't give of myself to do a chore for the city — I would and I have — my resume shows that I'm willing to do that. I always believe that I was a little bit to thin-skinned to take what those commissioners take."

Massaro also said he's always been concerned about speaking at a lectern in public.

"That's always been a fear that runs butterflies in my stomach," he said.

Though he has no problems with chairing a Local Planning Agency meeting if chairwoman Diane Brand is absent, he said he's more comfortable purely as a board member and not having to worry about running the meeting.

"I like to give a lot of input. I forget about the fact it is on TV," he said. "I do tend to get into the task at hand."

Massaro has been involved in numerous discussions and decisions that shaped the future of Dunedin.

Asked to name the some of the best accomplishments among the boards he has been involved with, on the top of his list is what he calls "compatibility clarity," which he said has been a major issue for the City Commission and the LPA since the creation of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency in 1988.

City officials made a decision early on that they don't want anything downtown resembling certain well-known fast-food chain restaurants, Massaro said.

"We were concerned with residential and the commercial mix. We always said if we are going to be a successful downtown we have to have both. We have to have some retail, maybe we need to combine it where we do some residential with it because we need the influx of people. We need people to live downtown. They're the activity," he said.

He praised city Housing and Economic Development Director Bob Ironsmith for his role in the operation of the CRA.

“He's done an absolutely terrific job. He's been there from the beginning. He got to know the players. He knows the properties. He knows all the issues," Massaro said.

Massaro is pleased with the formation of the Architectural Review Committee in 2018, which, he said, has provided a review to the City Commission on all of the major projects to date.

"And these guys know their business, their trade. That's their education," he said.

"The end result I think was a very positive thing for the city to do. I really believe that helped us to create what I call this clarity in compatibility," said Massaro, who, besides being an architect, is a certified general contractor.

Commenting on growth and challenges for the city, he said, "We continue to learn from our ongoing review of proposed and completed projects. We see where we can improve the process, modify the codes and ordinances."

Victoria Place, a $20 million downtown mixed-used project near the waterfront, was a key big downtown development, Massaro said.

"We tried to numerous times to do something big like that, but it never panned out," he said. "That was the first one. And what we really learned is what building setbacks really do," he said.

Massaro noted that the Artisan Apartment Homes on Douglas Avenue provided a public parking component.

He also has been complimentary of the Gateway project, saying at a recent LPA meeting that "this is what we have trying to do for years and years and years."

The mixed-used development project is proposed for Main Street, Milwaukee Avenue and Skinner Boulevard, featuring apartments, a boutique hotel, meeting space, swimming pool, public promenade space, food court and other amenities.

The proposed $22.8 million city hall and parking lot, for which a ground-breaking ceremony was held in May 11, also has his support.

He said city officials did a great job in finding a solution to the need for a city hall and hiring an architect for the project on Louden Avenue.

"I think it was the successful way to do that to get people to accept the kind of concept that would be required to take the city into the future," he said.

Asked for his views on whether the city should have a paid-parking system, Massaro said he always has been opposed to it and that he has made his views known on the issue.

He believes if the city has a parking problem, then officials are doing something right: "People are coming."

“I think today, I think with these new projects that are coming on board, they all have parking components, which is mandatory; by code you have to have it. Some of that problem gets resolved; some of it doesn't. Doing meters there in the street may be a solution for some people, but not for me. I just never was a fan of that. I don't think I'll ever be a fan of that," he said.

Massaro lives with his wife, Mary, in a house off Curlew Road that he designed and built about 22 years ago. They have been married for 30 years and have three children.

In honor of the thousands of hours of volunteer service to the city, Chamber of Commerce, Dunedin Historical Society, Rotary Club of Dunedin North and Mease Manor, Massaro received the Chamber’s 2011 Beatrice Donoghue Delightful Dunedin Award.

Freaney said that Massaro's historical knowledge of the CRA is an asset, also complimenting him on his dedication to the city.

"He studies his stuff. So he just brings to the table something that's just invaluable," he said.

Changes to downtown have occurred over a good period of time, Massaro said, adding that he's pleased with how they progressed.

"I always love architecture, I always loved development, and I always loved our little town and I want nothing but the best for it," Massaro said.