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Theater and $5M Municipal Center to Replace City Hall?

City leaders wrestled with how to pay for a future, more spacious municipal center, estimated at $5.1 million, during a commission workshop Jan. 15. They discussed possibly selling city-owned land and using City Hall as performance art space.

The city's longtime dream of a municipal center is beginning to take shape. 

And it could mean a creative new use for City Hall.

"There's some exciting possibilities," City Manger Rob DiSpirito said during a Jan. 15 city commission workshop.

With no other viable funding options available, the $5.1 million price tag to make it all reality left DiSpirito thinking "outside the box" on how to pay for it.

Tentative plans are to combine City Hall and the municipal services building, which houses the city clerk's office, utility billing and the human resources and finance departments, in a yet-to-be designed, 19,000-square-foot, two-story annex at the former site of the First Baptist Church, which has been used as a city-owned parking lot off of Louden Avenue and Virginia Street since 2006.

City Hall is deemed insecure for staff and the municipal building is deemed obsolete, according to a recent space-needs analysis by Clem Papas of Inside Out Group Inc., a Dunedin-based architectural firm.

The replacement municipal center would include enough room for a 5 percent increase in city employees, Papas said.

The city presently houses 334 employees using 16,415 square feet.

Commissioner Heather Gracy and Ron Barnette believe the upgrade would facilitate better customer service because it would put all the city services under one roof (instead of several blocks apart) and be completely ADA compliant.

"We've reached that point where tinkering isn't going to solve it," Barnette said. " ... From the public's point of view, they should relish the opportunity of walking into an entrance and knowing they're not going to have to go back outside and find their way into another one."

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The technical services building, which includes North District Station, planning and development, engineering and economic and housing development, would remain, but would get refurbished. The building has received a new roof and a air-conditioning system in the past year, Mayor Dave Eggers said.

DiSpirito suggested putting the First Baptist Church land up for sale on the condition that the company constructs the city's building and leases it back at "better terms than a bank."

"The land is the piggy bank," DiSpirito said, proposing merely to "extract that value back out and apply it toward the project." 

DiSpirito explained that the city could include conditions for parking and that a lease could mean smaller payments over a longer period of time.

"I think it's a very creative approach," Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said. "If those pieces of the puzzle come together, I'm all for it."

DiSpirito added that the land is in the process of getting an updated appraisal.  

City Hall, once a library, would be re-purposed. 

DiSpirito listed possible uses as a public performance space, which residents requested in a city survey. He hopes to engage the community later on what would be desirable at the location. 

The municipal center concept has been stewing since 2000, when officials at the time conducted a space needs analysis, the results of which led them to invest in land downtown.

"It is probably one of the more vetted projects," said Doug Hutchens, city engineer.

Cecilia January 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM
No doubt there are going to be people SCREAMING about this. However, if we are to be city where young people want to relocate to or remain in we have to continue to evolve and change in a positive manner. WIthout the influx/retention of younger citizens Dunedin will remain stuck and never grow. This buidling is a great move toward our City's Future. I say YIPPEE!!!
Lori January 22, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Here we go AGAIN! Spending MORE $$$$ for downtown and to hell with the SOUTHSIDE! This city makes me sick as a taxpaper......
Cecilia January 22, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Lori - What is needed on the Southside? Has anyone ever sat down and written out a true proposal of exactly what the problems are and what the residents need, point by point to solve the, and asked for a sit down with the City Officials? Clearly there are problems. However having run business for the better part of 25 years sometimes we(the ones experiencing the actual problems) think the people who can make changes know exactly what needs to be done. BUT many times they (those who can make change happen) do not know. When they (the change makers) do not know and all they hear is we (the ones experiencein the problems) need help, nothing is being done,etc. it starts to be ignored - because they do not have specific problems/solutions for those problems - SPECIFICS - and perhaps if there is no concrete list of problems and solutions in front of the City Officials - they do not know specifics. I do not know the solution as I personally do not know the exact problems nor do I know of the solutions that people who live there(Southside) believe will work to elimate the problems - SPECIFICALLy. Besides, even if I knew, I am not a City Official. I am just offering a suggestion to perhaps get these problems addressed more efficiently and ultimately solved. I truly believe this is Dunedin Problem - not north or south. Good Luck and keep up the good fight!!
Lori January 22, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Nobody is going to want tomove here with all the CRIME that REALLY does exist here! Dunedin doesn't need growth...The city and SO can't control anything thats here now!
Bob Gallo January 22, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Is this really necessary? City services just a few blocks apart from each other? How about implementing electronic bill payment and other technology solutions instead of an anachronistic bricks & morter solution? Dunedin is a small municipality not Washington D.C. or a state capital. This has nothing to do with demographics or evolution and why any individual of any age will decide whether or not to move or stay in Dunedin. Follow the money here, listen closely and let's discuss whose personal interest is being considered. Cecilia, I'm really not understanding why a combined municipal building is of any consequence in encouraging younger individuals to live in Dunedin? What younger individuals are interested in are jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing, good schools for children and all the amenities that make a place livable for all generations. How about keeping the $5 million in a rainy day fund for the next economic downturn so city employees can be retained, services can continue, infrastructure can be maintained and Dunedin can remain a viable choice? Follow the money folks and learn who really benefits from this, just make sure it is you.
waltallen January 22, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Yes Lori isn't it amazing how creative this city can be , especially this city manager, when it's a project THEY want to spend money on ? (in this case, spend money on themselves) Otherwise they just look at you and say "sorry, we just don't have the money" By the way , Inside Out Group is the same firm responsible for the lovely 'design' at 570 Edgewater
Lori January 22, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Cecilia...This city (officials) knows what is needed on the SOUTHSIDE besides LEO!...Street repairs, lighting, yea maybe some landscaping...SAME AS DOWNTOWN! After all there was just a BIG meeting in Nov. WaltAllen & Bob Gallo..You are 100% RIGHT! WHile crime is #1 so are other things!
Mathew J. Eberius January 22, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Having worked for the City and gone through the Municipal Services Building, I can surely tell you all that the building needs quite a bit of work! It's falling apart and needs to be replaced. The same goes for City Hall... while it may look good on the outside, the buildings could use a rejuvenation. Bringing the facilities together and consolidating the offices would make sense, and would save the taxpayer's time and money in having staff go from building to building. I think a performance space in the downtown district would be a great idea and should be shared with the community's arts organization, the Showcase Arts Foundation. The theater company is in need of space and this would make for a good home for the group, which currently is all-volunteer.
Lori January 22, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I will NEVER care about a thing in this city until MY tax dollars go to MY community the SOUTHSDIE...So Mr. Eberius...My area needs quite a bit of work, its falling apart and needs to be replaced! Are you kidding saving staff (thats already WELL overpaid) from having to go building to building!? LAME...
Jerry Wayne January 22, 2013 at 06:12 PM
That money could go to other things, like renewable energy resources for the city. Improvements to neighborhoods or organic garden patches, in-town hybrid transportation, ect. We need to start thinking long-term advancements to better the city, not a "pretty new building downtown". Dunedin could be a trendsetter to other cities to start cleaning up city pollution and start trying to reverse global warming. All it takes is one spark to ignite a blaze.

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