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Dunedin Causeway area to become more pedestrian-friendly

DUNEDIN — The Dunedin Causeway area will become more pedestrian-friendly and more inviting to potential investors under proposed changes to Dunedin's building and land development codes.

During a City Commission workshop this week, city staffers unveiled a working draft of their Causeway Boulevard master plan. Once approved, the plan will serve as Dunedin's guide for future construction along a portion of the corridor that stretches from Bayshore Boulevard on the east, across a short bridge and encompasses the largely residential area known as Ward Island on the west.

The proposal includes several measures aimed at transforming the corridor into a walkable district, much like Dunedin's downtown:

• Zoning on the east side of the causeway — from Bayshore Boulevard to the first bridge leading to Ward Island — would strongly favor first-floor retail, restaurants and entertainment, with the possibility for mixed-use office space or residential developments above the first floor. Commercial business on Ward Island, a flood zone, would have to be located to the second floor.

• To encourage foot traffic, the city plans to eventually widen sidewalks on the causeway's north side to accommodate large groups of pedestrians and space for open-air porches or patios, shade awnings or outdoor cafe space.

• To discourage vehicular traffic, additional gas stations, drive-through facilities and auto-repair businesses — elements that attract cars — would be prohibited.

• To make it more attractive, parking would be located underneath or to the rear of all buildings, and would be shielded from the public right-of-way's view via landscaping, walls or other means. That would require that all buildings be built closer to the street.

New architectural guidelines would mandate that commercial and residential buildings along the corridor's entire length carry a similar appearance.

Officials say the plan incorporates ideas from a year's worth of well-attended meetings with residents, merchants and other stakeholders who live along or regularly visit the much-traveled corridor. Each year, over 1 million visitors alone cross the causeway to reach Honeymoon Island State Park.

"Right now (the causeway) functions like a neighborhood village center where folks do their daily errands, go shopping, eat, but it's a very auto-oriented area," said Steve Schukraft, a planning and urban design consultant with Tampa-based HDR Engineering, which is helping the city craft the master plan.

"We're trying to balance that with a more pedestrian-friendly character," he said. "We're not trying to recreate Main Street, but we're trying to create a character like that ... where together (the buildings) create a larger destination or district."

Commissioners on Tuesday gave staff their unanimous blessing to press on with work on the plan. However, they also requested changes to address a few concerns.

They want to make sure there are adequate buffers and strict facade requirements so residents of the causeway area aren't bothered by noise from the rear parking lots or unattractive views. They also want staffers to research ways to ensure that the causeway is accessible by bus and to look into a possible partnership with the Jolley Trolley.

The revised plan must then go before Dunedin's Local Planning Agency, a citizen advisory board that reviews matters affecting the city land development code and makes recommendations to the City Commission. Commissioners would decide on final approval at an undetermined date.

The proposal stands to streamline the process for developers working with the city, address residents' hopes and concerns, and bring consistency to causeway project requirements, said City Manager Rob DiSpirito.

"I feel, too, that this would serve as ... a great model for continued work in other corridors," he said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Dunedin Causeway area to become more pedestrian-friendly 01/12/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:52pm]
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