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St. Pete Beach eyes federal stimulus money for marina, Corey boardwalk

ST. PETE BEACH — A city-owned marina and a boardwalk under the Corey Avenue Bridge are ideas that just won't die.

Despite past funding setbacks, the city is now pushing to get $500,000 in federal stimulus funds to build a 725-foot boardwalk beneath the Corey Avenue Bridge to connect the city's historic Corey Avenue shopping district with the new $8 million community center and park on the north side of the bridge.

The City Commission's plan calls for a minimum of 12 wet slips where both the public and law enforcement could moor boats.

Recent marina proposals call for as many as 125 boat slips capable of mooring boats up to 50 feet in length — a project that could produce significant income for a budget-strapped city.

If approved, the money would come from the federal Economic Development Initiative account and funded in the 2011 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.

"The proposed project will provide pedestrian and boat access between two vital local resources," the city stated in a proposal recently forwarded through its Washington lobbyist.

Currently, the only way for pedestrians to cross between the Corey Avenue shops and the recreation complex is to cross four lanes of busy traffic.

Connecting the two sites by boardwalk under the Corey Bridge would provide a "safe" way to cross and give "unprecedented access" to fishing and boating, according to the city proposal.

The 1920s buildings along Corey Avenue were the city's original downtown. The Corey Bridge was built in 1976, moving traffic one block to the north.

City officials say that for about 20 years the Corey shopping area remained a "marginally viable retail area." Construction in 2002 of the new City Hall on the eastern end of Corey Avenue began to re-establish the area as a viable downtown.

The marina and boardwalk are key to the economic redevelopment of the historic Corey Avenue area, according to the proposal. If funded, the new facility would improve public access, relieve parking issues and allow expansion of numerous art shows and festivals.

The city is also planning to spend $9,160 from its capital improvement funds to immediately hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study that would determine how many public docks could be located at the city's waterfront recreation complex off 75th Avenue.

"We need accurate estimates of water depth and marine life on the bottom," City Manager Mike Bonfield told the commissions Tuesday.

The study will look at the recreation complex's 965 feet of waterfront out to the Intracoastal Waterway and south to the Corey Bridge to determine waterway setback requirements, submerged land ownership and areas that can qualify for dock permits, and a preliminary dock design.

Interest in a city marina has waxed and waned over the years.

A referendum straw poll taken in the early 1990s was rejected by residents, who then did not want to see or pay for a marina along its City Hall property.

When City Hall was moved to its current site on Corey Avenue in 2002, a marina was again proposed during planning to convert the former City Hall site to a waterfront park and recreation complex.

Last year the city unsuccessfully applied for a $100,000 Florida Boating Improvement Program state grant to conduct an environmental, permitting and economic study for the project.

"Times change, markets change. There seems to be some interest in continuing to look at it," Bonfield said Tuesday.

St. Pete Beach eyes federal stimulus money for marina, Corey boardwalk 02/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 5:24pm]
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