Tarpon Springs looks at ways to beautify downtown

Published March 28 2018

TARPON SPRINGS ó Lighting, landscaping and signs are all up for discussion as the city begins to focus on the beautification of downtown and the surrounding area.

A recent meeting led by Economic Development Manager Karen Lemmons and Public Works Director Tom Funcheon targeted several areas of need, the historic downtown district, the Pinellas Avenue-Alt. 19 corridor and the Sponge Docks.

Funcheon presented several lighting options for downtown, including wrapping poles with rope lighting and using small or large decorative lights hanging from trees and buildings, noting each option has pros and cons, including purchase and maintenance costs and supplying power to the features.

"Iíd like to see lighting in the trees and on the poles, but not on buildings," Mayor Chris Alahouzos said. "That makes it look like a carnival, to me."

City Commissioner Jacob Karr, a longtime proponent of beautification efforts, said he wasnít in favor of utilizing rope lights and preferred going with the large, decorative lights instead.

"The rope lights on the poles, I donít think they look great on the poles themselves," Karr said. "They also turn like a yellowish color after theyíve been out in a sun a little bit, also, and with the longevity it doesnít look as good with putting the lights in the trees downtown.

"So, Iím leaning more toward lighting up the larger trees with some of the larger lights, and string lights over the roads."

Commissioner Rea Sieber said she didnít want to "forget about the Sponge Docks," and suggested they keep the boats at the dock lit up all year long instead of just during the holidays, an idea seconded by Commissioner Susan Miccio-Kikta.

Commissioner David Banther added that the lighting in the district should be consistent.

"One thing that should be done is the globes and the bulbs have to be consistent," he said. "That needs to be done first."

Alahouzos concurred, and Funcheon said they are already in the process of changing the globes.

"Weíre going back to glass," he said.

Regarding landscaping along the Alt. 19 corridor, the main north-south route through downtown, Funcheon explained the city is restricted as to what types of trees can be used due to Florida Department of Transportation guidelines.

"We have some limitations," he said, noting the DOT recommended the Chinese fan palm or ligustrum, a hardy shrub-like tree with dense foliage that can withstand a wide range of conditions.

"Iím not a tree expert, but I donít like either one of them," the mayor said.

City Manager Mark LeCouris said city staff could bring other suggestions to the DOT for approval.

The longest discussion centered on signage. Lemmons said the staff is looking at five types of signs, including gateway, or entrance signs, wayfinding directory signs, historic district street signs and city property signs, that are in desperate need of attention due to wear and tear, damage and other factors.

"Staff is in the process of doing an inventory of all city signage so that we know where all the signs are," Lemmons said.

The ensuing discussion touched on several options, including incorporating logos, artwork, historical information and other design elements that will help identify the city to visitors as well as changing the color schemes of the signs and banners that dot the downtown district and the Sponge Docks.

While no clear consensus was reached, the officials all agreed the blue and white scheme on the wayfinding signs downtown needs to be replaced.

"They were never very legible," Miccio-Kikta said.

Banners featuring the cityís iconic sponge diver, as well as pole banners in the maroon and white colors of Tarpon Springs High School, have proven to be popular additions downtown, Lemmons added.

"That color scheme seems to work," she said.