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Artistic lighting planned for Central Avenue in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A group of artists unveiled a plan Thursday to visually remake Central Avenue into an illuminated unifying symbol of the city.

Employing lighted glass columns along the city's dividing thoroughfare would connect the sprawling avenue and encourage people to use the Central Avenue Trolley, said Carol Mickett of Mickett/Stackhouse Studio.

The columns would also play as metaphor: concrete examples of Central's role as the city's spine, she said.

The city, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and the federal government have set aside almost $2.3 million for the project, which will also be spent on standard bus shelters and accessibility features as part of an art-in-transit initiative. The plan will also encompass First Avenue N and First Avenue S, but will focus on Central Avenue, said Evan Mory, the city's transportation and parking management director.

How much money will be spent on the artistic aspects of the project hasn't been determined yet, he said.

At least 10 trolley stops will receive "artistic" treatment along the avenue.

The council signed off unanimously on the plan, authorizing Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration to reach a design agreement with the firm.

Historically, Mickett said, Central Avenue has been a "dividing avenue." The illuminated columns could have lights timed to the arrival of the Central Avenue Trolley and would be color-coded to denote the seven distinct neighborhoods or districts between Beach Drive and Park Street.

"What we're really doing is art-driven urban planning," Mickett said.

The plans are conceptual and no design has been completed yet, she said. Once the contract is signed with the city, the design phase should take between three and six months. Residents could see the first improvements in place by spring, she said.

The welcome portals are likely to be fast-tracked, as Kriseman has said he wants to see those done as quickly as possible.

Council member Charlie Gerdes cautioned the group not to ignore west St. Petersburg, although the initial phase calls for the glass columns to end at 28th Street.

"We won't tar and feather you, but we won't be happy," he said.

Some of the artistic upgrades will likely be shifted to the western part of Central, Mickett said.

Dan Harvey Jr., who owns property along Central Avenue, said he isn't a fan of the glass columns. They're too square-shaped, he said.

"I was hoping to see them get away from that," he said. "Is that going to be our look? I'm not buying into it."

In other business:

• The council unanimously set the millage rate at 6.77, the same as last year. But it also voted to schedule a workshop to discuss budget matters on Aug. 28. Several council members said they wanted more details on what the city planned to do with an estimated $973,000 in revenue generated by rising property values that wasn't known when Kriseman submitted his budget on July 1.

• The council voted 6-1 to schedule an Aug. 7 public hearing on a proposed charter change that would guarantee council members the right to express their opinion about high-level mayoral appointments. Council Chairman Bill Dudley voted no. Council members Darden Rice and Karl Nurse, who proposed the change, were out of town on government-related business and didn't attend the meeting.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

Artistic lighting planned for Central Avenue in St. Petersburg 07/24/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:04pm]
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