Reporter

St. Cloud looks to relocate building department for $1.1M

St. Cloud is one of the fastest growing cities in Central Florida, and City Hall is now running out of room.

That’s why local leaders are looking to relocate St. Cloud’s busy building department to a new nearby location to the tune of about $1.1 million.

That price tag includes the $400,000 appraised value of a long-abandoned structure at 918 New York Ave. along with $700,000 in renovations, according to St. Cloud City Manager Bill Sturgeon.

The move would upgrade the building so that it’s more in-line with current downtown renovation efforts, Sturgeon said.

“We’re out of room here at City Hall,” Sturgeon told city council members during a Nov. 15 meeting. “It’s very important that I relocate our building department to continue to provide the highest level of customer service as we continue to grow as a city.”

St. Cloud staff started negotiations with Florida Avenue Development Partnership, a large holding company, over six months ago about the property. It once served as an Irish pub, but has sat vacant in the downtown area for years.

The building department would only occupy the location on New York Avenue for three to five years, Sturgeon said. The renovated property would then return to commercial use and the building department would find a new permanent location.

Possible funding sources for the investment include the Building Department Incentives Fund and St. Cloud OUC Interlocal Agreement funds, the city manager said.

But Executive Director of St. Cloud Main Street Paula Stark raised concerns during the meeting about removing the building from the tax rolls and maintaining the structure’s historical integrity. She also asked if it would be better for a private entity to purchase it and then lease it to the city.

Sturgeon stressed that the move would be a good investment for the city’s future, noting that St. Cloud already owns part of the property.

“We’ve had several people look at it. They can afford the building, but what they can’t afford is the remodeling,” Sturgeon said.

Building Department Director Doug Tillery said steps would be taken to preserve certain aspects of the building, a former Irish pub.

“I intend to maintain the tin ceiling and maintain the bar,” Tillery said. “We’ll probably need that on occasion considering the workload that we have.”

Tillery also had serious concerns about plant life inside the building and structural issues with the roof.

“If something’s not done relatively soon, it’s going to have to be demolished,” he said. “Because there’s not going to be anything there to save.”

The only decision made at this point is that staff is now recommending the Community Redevelopment Agency buy the property and renovate it for use by a private end user to be determined.

St. Cloud grew 36 percent from 2010 to 2017, according to U.S. Census data released in May, making it the fastest growing city in Osceola, Orange, Seminole and Polk counties.