— The vision was of a new City Hall rising in a proposed “downtown” where residents could shop, dine and dwell in towering condos. But now that dream may be derailed.
Newly-elected Mayor Skip Campbell is scaling back plans for the long-awaited City Hall project, now expected to be a more modest five-stories and 65,000 square feet.
While the general consensus is that the “train has left the station,” Campbell said, “there are always brakes on trains.”
At the next commission meeting, Dec. 17, the grand plans will be re-visited. At stake: The location and the scope of the estimated $28 million project, which includes an adjacent parking garage.
“When I ran [for mayor], I ran on this issue and the voters spoke, and I think they want to have something more fiscally prudent for the city,” Campbell said. “Just because I can afford a Rolls Royce doesn’t mean I have to buy one.”
City officials have long argued for new digs. Management complained that elevator used by maintenance crews opened into an office, that commission chambers were too small, carpets were mismatched and break rooms were outdated.
Staff envisioned a new building at the intersection of Sample Road and University Drive, an area they hoped would drive the start of a new “downtown,” with shops and restaurants and high-rise condos.
The city expected building permits to be issued in the spring, and construction to begin in late summer and last two years.
Lisa J. Huriash A police officer caught driving 88 mph on Florida’s Turnpike 23 mph over the posted limit has received counseling for excessive speed. A police officer caught driving 88 mph on Florida’s Turnpike 23 mph over the posted limit has received counseling for excessive speed. ( Lisa J. Huriash ) –>
But Campbell said the project is too big, and that conference rooms on each floor might be too extravagant. He’s also going to discuss the location: A move away from the downtown area could free up that land for business.
It appears he’ll get his way, at least to some extent.
“I think there’s a middle ground to be found,” said Commissioner Dan Daley, who has historically supported the City Hall project and wants to keep it at the proposed location. He said he’s willing to compromise on the project, and that the city can eliminate some atrium space or a fitness center for employees.
“There can be minor tweaks, but when you add up all the minor tweaks it can be a plan everyone can work with,” he said.
Commissioner Joy Carter also wants to see the project downsized. “We do need a City Hall, but it doesn’t have to be a Taj Mahal,” she said.
Commissioner Lou Cimaglia, Jr. hasn’t made a decision yet. “When I campaigned, I agreed with the way it is presented. However my mind is open,” he said.
Nothing will happen without a fight.
Vice Mayor Larry Vignola likes the plans the way they are.
Lisa J. Huriash Soon, you can keep booze on your shopping list or have a mimosa with brunch on Sunday mornings. Soon, you can keep booze on your shopping list or have a mimosa with brunch on Sunday mornings. ( Lisa J. Huriash ) –>
“My personal opinion is, it’s been scaled back … it’s reasonable and it fits the city’s needs without going overboard,” he said. “You have city employees and you have to house them responsibly. We have one shot to do this right.”
He’s not a fan of moving the building to a park with playing fields. “We can’t do it without losing field space,” he said. “These soccer fields are packed. You are going to have to displace a lot of these leagues.”
“I’m not going to go for a project we have to re-do [later].”
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