INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Two years after approving a visioning plan, the city is poised to expand its historical museum, build floating docks and redesign the city's entrance in a wide-ranging effort to revitalize its business district.
The city recently received a $125,000 matching grant to build 17 floating docks at Keegan Clair Park.
"The park is just open space now, but the docks will allow recreational boaters to tie up and visit our restaurants and businesses," City Manager Chuck Coward said Monday.
Tuesday night, the commission also was expected to approve the $200,000 purchase of a vacant house that will be the key to a redesign of the intersection of Gulf Boulevard and the Walsingham Bridge causeway.
Next month, the city will begin a major expansion of the Historical Museum at Chic-A-Si Park that will not only double exhibition space but also will provide public restrooms to better accommodate special events. The work is expected to be completed by year's end.
The three projects represent nearly a million dollars of Penny for Pinellas and grant money investment in a program to revitalize the city's business and social center.
The projects are the first results of a plan created in 2009 by the University of South Florida's Florida Center for Community Design and Research, the research division of the USF School of Architecture and Community Design.
The 51-page plan, which cost the city $55,000, focuses on three areas: the city's Mid-Town commercial area, the Narrows just to the south, and a commercial area near the city's northern border.
Construction of the new docks, slated to cost about $250,000, is expected to begin early in 2012 and be completed by that summer.
Half the cost will be paid for through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Boating Improvement Program grant.
The grant calls for a 250-foot-long fixed dock, but the city plans to ask the state to modify the grant to allow floating docks that would be easier and safer for boaters and kayakers.
The city also plans to make improvements in the park to support the dock operations, and stabilize the shoreline in the Narrows area.
The public docks will be free and open during daylight and early evening hours, Coward said, but overnight docking will not be allowed.
"We see this as an economic development project," Coward said. "The purpose is to get recreational boaters to stop to have lunch or dinner at our restaurants and visit our shops."
According to a state study, nearly 40 percent of the area's boaters visit restaurants during their boating trips.
The related planned purchase of the house at 442 Gulf Blvd. will let the city improve its "signature intersection," Coward said.
The property sits on the immediate west side of the Gulf Boulevard and Walsingham Road intersection. Once the house is torn down, the intersection can be widened, traffic signals can be relocated and redesigned, and decorative landscaping can be installed.
The result will beautify the city's entrance, Coward said, as well as provide a "sight corridor" to the Gulf of Mexico.