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Dunedin City Commission looks at proposal for improving two avenues

DUNEDIN — Lighted gateway arches, decorative street signs, bus shelters and new sidewalks could line portions of Patricia and Douglas avenues under a $736,500 city staff proposal for improvements along the two corridors.

The enhancements, unveiled during a City Commission workshop this week, are among the ideas gleaned from corridor studies conducted after meetings with neighborhoods and businesses two or so years ago.

Plans aren't final. But city staffers hope to get City Commission approval soon, then start construction this summer and complete the projects by winter.

First, though, officials this spring plan to take the proposal back to residents and merchants along those corridors for feedback.

"We think both those areas have a lot of potential for redevelopment," said Dunedin economic development director Bob Ironsmith. "We want to show the business community that the city is serious about looking at enhancements out here."

Project funding would come from Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenues. If approved, the potential improvements would encompass the first phase of a revitalization plan for both corridors. Subsequent phases might include further enhancements to medians and landscaping, or look at additional stretches of both avenues, Ironsmith said.

A $388,000 package of potential improvements along a 1.5-mile stretch of Patricia between Union Street and State Road 580 includes decorative street signs, similar to the framed signs attached to black poles in downtown Dunedin. Shade trees, as well as wider, linked sidewalks would foster a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

The plan also calls for adding four bus shelters with "City of Dunedin" logos and extending downtown's theme of red brick crosswalks. The city also hopes to partner with nearby schools to improve drainage and encourage greener practices by swapping out the current system for "bioswales," vegetation-filled ditches that filter stormwater contaminants and maintain water clarity.

The goal, Ironsmith said, is to play off Patricia Avenue's great mix of businesses and its proximity to downtown and the Pinellas Trail.

"People are using Patricia Avenue to go north and south, not necessarily stopping to stay and spend money and do some various activities," he said. "Right now it has a bit of a sterile feel. It's kind of what we call a 'non-destination'."

Officials are pushing Patricia as an ideal location for mixed-use developments, which combine retail, residential and office space.

Conversely, staff hopes to convert a quarter-mile portion of north Douglas Avenue, between Grant Street and Skinner Boulevard, into an art district.

The $348,000 proposal calls for trees and other landscaping; benches, trash cans and bus stops; and handicap-compliant sidewalks to replace those uprooted by trees on the road's east side and add walking space on the west side.

However, there was chatter about a proposal for two lighted arches at the north and south ends of Douglas to welcome folks to the art district.

Mayor Dave Eggers said he was hesitant to spend a proposed $97,000 on signs: "I feel like we're trying to define an area that may or may not be that."

City planning and development director Greg Rice said several arts-related businesses, such as Patricia Ann Dance Studios, Creative Art Institute and Dunedin Brewery, are already strongholds in that area. Staff's goal is to encourage similar entities to join them.

"All the housing that's behind that is some of our most challenged housing in the city and we were hoping that if we made this switch to live-work type things, you might have artists that would come in and purchase those at a good price and turn them into something special," Rice said.

The city would seek private donations from the art community and others for the gateway arches, City Manager Rob DiSpirito said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153.

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On the Web

Go to http://bit.ly/zdXMyq for video and documents from the Dunedin City Commission's workshop on corridor improvements along Patricia and Douglas avenues.

Dunedin City Commission looks at proposal for improving two avenues 02/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2012 7:33pm]
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