CLEARWATER — Drivers on Cleveland Street will soon encounter orange cones, barricades and detour signs as the city begins another phase of streetscaping, this time between Myrtle and Missouri avenues.
The $2.9 million project is set to begin Feb. 7 and is projected to last about a year. The first phase, expected to last six months, will run from Missouri Avenue westward through the Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue intersection.
That intersection will close when work begins, and the busy intersection at Missouri Avenue and Cleveland Street will be shut down about three weeks later. Detours will reroute drivers north to Drew Street via Jefferson Avenue and Grove Street, and south to Court Street via Lincoln Avenue and Pierce Street.
The second six-month phase will address Cleveland Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue west to Myrtle Avenue, with no intersections closing. The streetscaping is being funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Tim Kurtz, the city's engineering project manager, said he expects the project's timing to differ from that of the previous Cleveland Street makeover, which lasted 18 months during 2006 and 2007 and stretched from North Osceola Avenue to Myrtle Avenue. He's even optimistic the work will be completed earlier than the one-year projection. "We're hopeful we'll be able to beat that schedule," he said.
Geri Campos Lopez, the city's director of economic development, expects the project should hit fewer snags underneath the asphalt than the last project, where bricks from the original road were uncovered.
City Council member and CRA board member George Cretekos said the new look of Cleveland Street will help further revitalize the district. "It's to help spur economic development and create that neighborhood feeling," he said.
Almost no complaints were made when city officials met Thursday morning with local business owners and residents who may feel an impact once construction starts.
Pat Farmer, president of the Upper Pinellas District Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said he's not sure what impact the construction will have on the organization's thrift store, but that a strong base of returning customers should help it weather the inconvenience. The thrift store is set to move to a new location this year, but not before the project gets under way.
Farmer isn't worried. He recalled the loss of traffic on the street when the new Memorial Causeway Bridge opened in 2005, and how the business still held on. "We survived that," he said. "My guess is we'll be able to survive this."
Danica Hanghofer, 43, is glad to see the project take off but wishes the city would start it near her home, in Mediterranean Village, instead of further east. She said she's been waiting for streetscaping for years, adding that she also understands that businesses may be affected.
"There are good points and bad points," she said.
Gary Payne, general manager of Nature's Food Patch Natural Market Cafe and Deli, said while construction might cause a few temporary headaches for some of his customers, he sees the long-term benefits. "The street beautification is going to be good for the area and good for business overall," he said. "The people that want to shop here will find their way here."
The new streetscaping project will bring a number of changes to that stretch of Cleveland Street:
• Resurfacing of travel lanes and creation of on-street parking on both sides of Cleveland Street; one travel lane in each direction will remain.
• Medians with landscaping, including palm trees and crape myrtles.
• Wider sidewalks and new trash cans.
• New crosswalks at intersections and benches at corners.
• And mast arm traffic signals, replacing the current span-wire signals.
Reach Joey Flechas at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.