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Madeira Beach officials to consider plan for a more pedestrian- and tourist-friendly downtown

MADEIRA BEACH — A revised plan for redeveloping the city's downtown core into a "vibrant" destination area for tourists and residents alike will finally come up for a vote Tuesday.

The plan for the Madeira Beach Town Center largely focuses on avoiding a repetition of the architecturally dull, box-like structures that line much of Gulf Boulevard.

"A lot of mistakes made in the past were the result of the greed of developers, and the city let it pass," said Commissioner Steve Kochick.

The area encompassed by the plan covers most of the city's central business district — a 95-acre sector extending along the Tom Stuart Causeway and 150th Avenue west to Gulf Boulevard and north to include properties on either side of Madeira Way, as well as the civic complex (library, recreation center and City Hall) and nearby residential/condominium developments.

"The area is poised to thrive (but) lacks a cohesive identity and sense of place," according to the plan overview.

Today, the business core is merely a place to drive through with occasional brief stops for services.

Speeding vehicles and the lack of safe crossings currently discourage much north-south pedestrian movement along 150th Avenue. The area is characterized by limited parking, conflicting land uses and declining tourism.

In the future, the city envisions the area as a "vibrant place to visit and live," characterized by a mix of retail shops, restaurants, residences and hotels. The plan also calls for a new City Hall.

The area would be unified by improved pedestrian and bicycle access to all major destinations within the area. Views of both the Gulf and Boca Ciega Bay would be preserved and enhanced.

On-street parking would be complemented by "parking decks," and streets would be considered "public spaces" with inviting streetscapes.

One particular goal is the addition of hotel rooms that would "enhance the tourist industry" in the city.

Any new construction in the area would be restricted to no more than 15 units per acre, compared to the present maximum of 18 units per acre.

The plan would allow up to 1,200 permanent residential units, 3,414 temporary lodging units and 2.2 million square feet of retail or other nonresidential space.

Developers would be required to design their buildings according to city-approved guidelines. Generally, those guidelines would require a "visually interactive first floor" with architecturally distinct entrances and large storefront window displays.

Upper floors would be either residential or provide temporary lodging.

Building and sidewalks decorations would include planters, flower boxes, awnings and porticos.

If approved on first reading Tuesday, the plan would then be submitted to the Pinellas Planning Council and the Pinellas County Commission for comment. Final approval by the city is expected in July.

"This city has been working on this vision for seven years. It's embarrassing," Mayor Pat Shontz said Tuesday at the workshop.

Madeira Beach officials to consider plan for a more pedestrian- and tourist-friendly downtown 05/09/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:31am]
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