Largo Projects Indicate City Forming New 'Downtown'
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - It appears that without any fanfare Largo's "downtown," an obscure and hard to find place in recent years, is being formed in the area between Highland Avenue and Keene Road.
That is now where the main action is either happening or shaping up.
This was more evident than ever with two items on Tuesday night's work session agenda.
One was a rollout of plans for the new Community Center to be located on alternate Keene Road (the byway that used to be a short cut to get over to Keene itself).
The other was the plans for a new Highland Avenue, which will be a Champs Elysee like boulevard taking traffic into the vital center of Largo.
The $6 million Highland Avenue project nearly came a-cropper as Commissioners Gigi Arntzen and Robert Murray expressed misgivings, but urged on by city staff to commit to spending now, the commission agreed to go ahead.
One thing ruled out was the rotary where Rosery crosses Highland.
More than 700 folks associated with St. Paul United Methodist Church have signed a petition, conveyed to the city hicockalorums, very definitely opposing the planned roundabout. The commission agreed to eliminate it from the plans.
The church owns three of the four corners at that intersection. Naturally, churchgoers don't want cars whizzing around or trying to make their way through the intricacies of a roundabout.
It is clear that the new Highland Avenue is going to provide the main drag into the nerve center of the new Largo.
Heed - "This roadway provides direct access to, or connectivity from Largo Central Park, City Hall, Highland Recreation Complex, Pinellas County's future Eagle Lake Park . . ."
Those are the words out of the memo explaining it all to members of the City Commission who will go along with anything providing those paychecks keep coming.
New Highland Avenue is going to be something to write home about.
It will go from a two-lane road (head-on traffic) to a grand concourse with an urban trail, continuous sidewalks (most of the rest of the city does without sidewalks), intersection improvements and "Florida friendly landscaping," whatever that may be.
As to the new community center, this adventure defines the word opulent and observers wonder why the city staff is so eager to grant such a magnificent layout to a citizenry that otherwise epitomizes the idea of apathy.
The cost? (A minor incidental in the world of the city staff that spends long hours dreaming up new ways to spend money).
It is now tabbed at $11,297,300 in Largo's budget scheme, but the money available is $10,109,532.01 - a shortfall of $1,187,757.99
Notice that .01 (a bright shiny penny) tagged on the end of available money; that is a signal to the otherwise somnambulant commissioners that the bean counters work hard and account for every red cent, by golly.
In this current time of economic crisis - property values going down, contributions from county and state sources diminished, an ever dwindling Penny for Pinellas fund, almost certain tax increases coming up, fees for city services being raised, cuts in the city budget - the terrible crunch seems to be a foreign notion to the city staff that relentlessly pursues the spend, spend, spend course.
"This is a time to back off, not to undertake expensive projects," one observer, a former elected official said. "This city is desperately in need of sidewalks in certain places that are a matter of public safety. They have earmarked very little money for this kind of stuff."
Return to Current Edition