PINELLAS PARK — Many governments are just hoping to make ends meet this coming year, but officials here are looking to the future and dreaming big.
Really big, like:
• Building a $12 million indoor, multipool aquatics center at Park Boulevard and 66th Street N.
• Spending $8 million on four "pedestrian skywalks" — also known as pedestrian overpasses — along Park.
• Earmarking $3.4 million for "urban trails" along Park from U.S. 19 to 66th. An urban trail is an 8-foot-wide sidewalk with a custom stained surface that could have the impression of the city logo stamped in the concrete.
• Readying themselves to spend $3.5 million to buy land to build a parking garage near the railroad tracks on Park near the city's Park Station, which they envision as a stop when light rail comes to Pinellas.
Those are just a few of the almost 30 ideas that Pinellas Park staff members recently presented to City Council members as a way to improve the community redevelopment area. The redevelopment area extends for three blocks on either side of Park from U.S. 19 to 66th and a short way north and south of Park on 49th Street N. It is seen as Pinellas Park's downtown area.
The ideas, many of which are on a wish list that has no funds, came out of a series of visioning meetings held by city staff members, said Bob Bray, the city's planning director. In coming up with the concepts, staff members took to heart the recommendation of Daniel Burnham, an architect and urban planner who worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to "make no little plans."
"All those ideas, yeah, they're dream projects," Bray said. "They're not happening today, but we've got to start thinking about them. … They're opportunities that could come up. You don't want to be fishing with no bait on the hook. I'm saying let's put the line in the water."
The ideas may not be as farfetched as they might first appear, Bray said. Many factors are coming together that could see at least some of them become reality in the relatively near future.
The first of those is the development in the area around Park Station, the city's faux train station, 5851 Park Blvd. The building houses the Chamber of Commerce, the Pinellas Park Art Society and other groups. More and more people are coming to the building, Bray said.
Nearby is the revamped senior center and senior housing being constructed by St. Giles Manor. And, Bray said, light rail is more than a dream. It's becoming a reality and Park Station was set up to be a stop. That would bring more people to the area, which would encourage the mom and pop development city officials have long dreamed of having in that area.
Also on the horizon is the possibility of federal money to help such projects along.
"They all link together. It seems so obvious. If it can be seen today, the possibilities are greater tomorrow," Bray said.
Still, Bray said he's realistic. Some of the projects, like the aquatics center, would benefit not only the community, but others, like St. Petersburg College across the street from the site. So building such a facility could take agreements among many parties as well as money.
But that just means they could take a bit longer, he said.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.