With permits in hand and a contractor lined up, town officials are ready to begin initial work on the Town Center property.
Now, to write the check.
Town Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a budget transfer of $144,000 from the town Land Acquisition Fund to pay for rehab work to the former Amore restaurant parking lot and for earth-moving to smooth out and raise portions of the property to meet Southwest Florida Water Management District standards for wetland mitigation and stormwater runoff.
Additionally, some basic electrical, water and sewer connections are planned, and crushed-shell paths will be constructed to make the space more useful for such events as the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Savor the Sounds concert series, which is scheduled to kick off on Saturday, Feb. 29. It had been planned a month earlier, but an illness with one of the musical artists prompted a one month delay.
All told, the price for the work, plus some onsite testing services and consulting to support a public workshop on the future of the site, is $531,000. Since the project budget originally stood at $387,000, the budget transfer was needed, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman explained. The Land Acquisition Fund’s unassigned balance remains near $700,000.
“The market is what the market is right now,’’ he said.
Since last June, the town has added more vegetation clearing to the project, and the condition of the former parking lot was found to be worse than originally thought, requiring additional work to be planned.
“That parking lot is in pretty bad shape, ‘’ Brownman told commissioners in January. “We don’t believe in leaving it as it is. It’s not a very safe or conducive situation.’’
Town Manager Tom Harmer said a groundbreaking ceremony would herald the beginning of the work, and a public forum on future uses is planned at 9 a.m., March 11 at Town Hall. Mayor George Spoll said the Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force is also working to set up a meeting of condominium associations with the purpose of drawing out opinions on what future uses are possible for the 4.8 acres at 592 Bay Isles Road and 555 Bay Isles Parkway.
The land was envisioned as a site for an arts, cultural and education building, but plans to develop that with private financing alongside Ringling College of Art and Design were put on hold when the college backed away from a plan to work with the town last spring.