DUNEDIN — After several hours of wrestling with design concepts, city commissioners agreed that a new 37,445-square-foot City Hall-Municipal Services Complex and Technical Services Building should be built on the east side of city-owned property bounded by Milwaukee Avenue, Virginia Street, Louden Avenue and Wood Street.
According to a preliminary concept agreed to by commissioners at a May 14 work session, the eastern section of the property will include a L-shaped building with a one-story City Commission chambers and clock tower fronting Virginia Street. City Hall will be built to a two-story Municipal Services complex, in an L-Shape design that will stretch adjacent to a landscaped buffer along the Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street side of the property.
A courtyard plaza will be on the corner of Louden Avenue and Virginia Street, giving the site a campus-like ambiance.
There was much less consensus and certainty about how the western parcel bounded by Highland Avenue, Virginia Street, Louden Avenue and Wood Street, which is supposed to include a much-desired parking garage, should be developed.
The first of four design concepts, suggested by architect Harvard Jolly, proposed the western parcel would include 23,000 square foot of retail and restaurant fronting Virginia Street, a 335-space, four-story, parking garage in the middle of the parcel, and a buffer of townhomes facing the residential neighborhood along Wood Street. Access to the parking garage would be from Highland Avenue.
The cost to develop both the east and west parcel is estimated at $27.5 million; If commissioners want to add solar panels to the roof of the garage it will cost an additional $2.5 million.
Other options proposed by the architect included building the City Hall and Municipal Services Complex on the western parcel with a parking garage on the eastern property or locating all structures on the western parcel and leaving the 67,750 square feet of the eastern parcel to be sold to developers. One more option would have the city build its city hall on the eastern property and only a parking garage on the western parcel, so the remaining 32,000 square feet on the west can be sold to developers.
During discussion commissioners discussed what the size and configuration of a parking garage should be and whether the city should market the retail, restaurant and housing component on its own or ask a developer to assume that risk.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes said the city should consider what size parking garage it needs on this site, and suggested yet a third garage maybe needed in the future.
In the end city commissioners approved the first design concept presented by the architect, which includes building the City Hall-Municipal Complex on the eastern side of the property. However, a decision on parking garage design and whether retail, restaurant and townhomes in the western parcel should be completed by the city or a developer will be made at a later date.
Commissioners noted that the currently available 220 surface space parking area on Highland Avenue can serve the city’s needs until a decision can be made.
Commissioner Maureen Freaney said “we don’t have to do city hall with a parking garage.”
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said the commission has to decide how many parking spots the city actually needs, along with how big and bulky a parking garage should be.
At the end of discussion Commissioner Jeff Gow suggested that he might want to push for a community theater concept for the western parcel.
“We will figure that out; that’s a discussion for another day,” he said.
Bujalski noted the narrow local roads in that neighborhood may not be able to handle traffic from a community theater.
Deputy City Manager Doug Hutchens said a design concept will be prepared, along with estimated costs for the project. The city will hold town hall meetings and public hearings before a final decision is made.
In a staff report Bob Ironsmith, director of housing and economic development, said “it is important to note that a new consolidated City Hall is a commission-approved Penny IV signature project submitted to Pinellas County, and that the city owns the land under consideration free and clear.”
Funds toward a new consolidated City Hall have been budgeted in the 2019 Penny Fund in the amount of $12.7 million. Funds amounting to $2.5 million are budgeted for a new, shared downtown garage in the 2022 CRA Fund and with another $2.5 million coming from the Penny Fund.
The CRA Director noted “CRA Funds are eligible to support the downtown parking component of the proposed garage, but cannot be used to fund any portion of a garage needed just for City Hall.”
The City Commission approved a budget amendment in 2018 for more than $1 million to begin project design.
The City Hall building itself is estimated to cost $14.85 million without solar power. The parking garage is estimated to cost about $6.3 million to $11.5 million, depending upon the number of parking spaces, Ironsmith estimated.
Furniture, fixtures and equipment for a fully equipped City Hall is estimated at $1.2 million. Design and permitting fees for both the parking garage and City Hall are estimated at from $1.7 million to $2 million.
Commissioners will be asked to approve Phase II, calling for a full architectural scope of services and setting fees for design and construction for a new City Hall at its June 20 City Commission meeting.