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Economic leaders say Star Center is ripe for redevelopment

Veronica Brezina

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The envisioned utilities corridor and building for Raytheon Technologies at the Star Center site. All images: Pinellas County.

The county’s Young-Rainey Star Center tech and manufacturing hub, built on the former site of the Pinellas Plant, will need a major facelift to support the growing business tenants at the 96-acre campus in Largo. 

The center, located at 7887 Bryan Dairy Road, houses businesses’ administrative and light manufacturing operations. 

The tenants lease the land from the county’s economic development authority, but the aging utilities and infrastructure are hindering business expansions and recruitments at the site. 

The Young-Rainey Star Center at 7887 Bryan Dairy Road in Largo. 

“For 67 years, we’ve been managing the property. In reviewing conditions, we found some opportunities to sustain the facility,” Pinellas County Economic Development Director Cynthia Johnson said to Pinellas County commissioners during a Thursday workshop meeting. 

The active ground leases on 27 acres of the property would not be part of the redevelopment. 

Today, those companies lease a total of 490,000 square feet and have over 1,700 employees based at the site. The average commercial lease is roughly five years. 

In 2022, staff worked with commercial real estate firm Colliers to review the existing conditions and help identify the next steps. The most favorable option is to enter a private-public partnership for the 67-acre redevelopment with build-to-suit structures and a new utilities building. 

The green portion of the property represents the current leases, which will not be impacted, while the yellow portion indicates the proposed 67-acre redeveloped utilities buildings and area. 

The current campus is funded through the special revenue fund. 

Defense contractor Raytheon Technologies is the anchor tenant. The company has consolidated its facilities outside of the campus and plans to add 100 more employees to the current site, Johnson said. 

Per the envisioned plans, the authority would develop a new building for Raytheon; however, the first significant project to occur before the rise of new buildings would be the creation of a new utilities corridor along 114th Ave. It would control the water, sewer, power and fire systems for the entire campus. 

“Currently, staff is manually separating the utilities for each tenant,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said her team has engaged with Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which connects the local governing municipalities, to form the layout of the new corridor. 

Commissioner Charlie Justice questioned if the property could exchange hands to a private owner and the site’s appraised value, which Johnson said is unknown. 

“We have the opportunity to preserve industrial space we control now, that is something in the forefront. We need to keep it as an employment center and not sell it to the highest bidder and lose all of that opportunity,” Johnson contested. 

With a P3, the county would retain ownership of the land. The partners would fund, operate and maintain it. 

Commissioners raised other questions on environmental concerns given the site’s previous use as a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility operated by the United States Department of Energy. 

Star Center Program Director Greg Concannon informed commissioners a contractor conducts quarterly monitoring of the site and hasn’t detected anything harmful. Through the redevelopment process, the DOE would cover the removal of ground elements/any contamination, and completely “clean” the site, which may take two or three years. 

If the entire project moves forward with a string of approvals, it may take the county five to 10 years to bring the vision to life. 

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