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"Bulb-outs' to bloom at city corners

The most visible signs of the 4-year-old effort to dress up downtown Brooksville were unceremoniously dismantled about two weeks ago.

The pavement bricks that had been used to build "bulb-outs" at the northwest corner of the corner of S Brooksville Avenue and Liberty Street were returned to the street by a city work crew.

The humble structures had, however, performed their purpose, said City Manager Richard Anderson.

Partly because people generally liked the idea of bulb-outs, if not the particular ones that had been built, the city is pursuing the idea of better, and permanent curb improvements.

"What we found was that some people thought it was a great idea, though not many people thought the execution was too great," Anderson said.

The county Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed in August to finance the building of bulb-outs at six intersections in the city. The money will come out of a pool of federal money designed to pay for such projects.

It would represent the most significant step in the much talked-about project of sprucing up downtown Brooksville.

"It's a great step forward," said Bob Boyd, of the Brooksville Again, a downtown merchant's group.

Bulb-outs are extensions of the curb designed to slow traffic, to improve the looks of intersections, and to make them less intimidating to pedestrians, said City Planner Lynne Bolton. The ones the city plans to build are based on a preliminary design by Sherry McIntyre, business assistant of Margaret Ghiotto, owner of Rogers' Christmas House Village in Brooksville.

The original idea to reshape the sidewalks of Brooksville came from the the city's Visioning/Strategic Planning Committee, which was formed in 1993. It brought the idea to the City Council two years later. The city finally built the model bulb-outs nearly two years after that _ last winter.

"We just kind of pulled (the bricks) out of the street and stacked them up," Anderson said. "We did that because we knew it was a temporary test."

Ghiotto has been primarily responsible for carrying the idea forward since then. She and McIntyre toured several cities and studied designs that had been successful in other ones.

"We've been going everywhere under the sun looking at these," Ghiotto said, who said she will pay for decorative street lights along Main Street across from the Courthouse, once the work on the bulb-outs is nearly complete.

"I want something beautiful there," she said.

The plans call for bulb-outs that resemble a fan around each of corner of the intersection. Inside the curbs that define them, the bulb-outs will be filled with dirt to allow the planting of bushes and flowers. The plan also includes brick crosswalks.

The office of County Engineer Charles Mixson will draw up the final design and supervise construction, said Dennis Dix, the county's transportation planner. The county MPO allocated $60,000 of its federally financed Transportation Enhancement Fund to pay for bulb-outs at the six intersections: on Main Street at Fort Dade Avenue, Jefferson Street, Broad Street and Liberty Street, and on South Brooksville at Broad and Liberty.

The county will build two of the intersections first _ at Main and Fort Dade and Main and Liberty _ to see how people like the design before proceeding. The intersections at Broad and Jefferson, because they are state roads, are likely to be more expensive and complicated.

Dix said said he hopes the entire project will be completed within 18 months.