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Your opinions can help make Hillsborough Avenue more inviting

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — For at least 10 years, residents and business owners here have looked at Hillsborough Avenue and wished for something, well, different.

Greener maybe. Probably more pedestrian-friendly. And certainly more attractive.

Now Town 'N Country residents can help transform that general desire into some detailed plans.

On Monday, Hillsborough County officials will hold a public meeting to discuss beautifying Hillsborough Avenue from Town 'N Country Boulevard to Ambassador Drive.

The proposed project could include:

• Decorative sidewalks, perhaps with bricks laid in a basket weave or herringbone pattern.

• Better pedestrian lighting, crosswalks, bus shelters and benches.

• Trees, shrubs and other landscaping.

"We're basically asking people, how do you want this place to look?" said Rob Gamester, the community projects chairman for the Town 'N Country Garden Circle and a veteran of the process to come up with a long-range community plan for Town 'N Country.

Community leaders and county officials began talking in the late 1990s about writing such a plan. When it was adopted in 2003, its No. 1 goal was to develop a town center.

Mission accomplished. The $10.9 million Town 'N Country Commons opened about two years ago. It is home to the Town 'N Country Regional Library, a Head Start program, senior center and the recently completed Shimberg Gardens community park.

Now on to goal No. 2: improving the appearance of major roads in Town 'N Country.

Residents originally just wanted to say the goal should be to improve Hillsborough Avenue, Gamester said. But they left it a little more general, in case they decided, years down the line, that they thought another road needed attention first.

That hasn't happened. Hillsborough is still the priority.

The county doesn't have the money to do the streetscaping, but it does have $237,000 in federal funding for the design.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Community support for the design will be key for two reasons, officials say.

First, whatever streetscape design is chosen will be used as a template for possible future improvements between Memorial Highway and the Veterans Expressway.

Second, with no dollars available for the county to maintain roadside landscaping, officials hope local businesses and community groups will pitch in to pay for that maintenance.

"We're trying to develop a design that people want so they would be more willing to maintain it," said Benjamin Kniesly, a project manager with Hillsborough County public works.

That's already taking place along parts of Hillsborough Avenue. With the county running out of money to maintain some landscaped medians on the road, the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce rounded up about a half-dozen corporate sponsors to kick in $1,000 each every year to pay for the maintenance.

Local leaders expect that the same approach would be used to keep up whatever improvements are made along Hillsborough as a result of the community planning process. The goal is to create something that not only invites residents and pedestrians, but customers.

"If the place looks better, it's going to be a better environment for business," chamber president and CEO Jerry Custin said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

>>fast facts

If you go

What: Public meeting to discuss the design for streetscape improvements along Hillsborough Avenue from Town 'N Country Boulevard to Ambassador Drive.

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: Town 'N Country Regional Library, 7606 Paula Drive, at the corner of Ambassador Drive, north of Hillsborough Avenue and between Hanley Road and Town 'N Country Boulevard.

Your opinions can help make Hillsborough Avenue more inviting 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 5:30am]

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