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Discussions may lead to new vision for the city

(ran South, East, Beach editions)

As the Florida Orchestra launched Liszt preludes in the Mahaffey Theater, residents in a smaller room next door brainstormed Monday night about the city's future.

The concert drew the bigger crowd. But about 50 people attended the latest in a series of discussions that will lead to revising rules controlling the city's land use and development.

The topic was city centers: downtown, the Tyrone commercial center and the Gateway office-oriented center on the city's northern edge.

City government planners, longtime neighborhood activists, entrepreneurs and taciturn civic observers heard consultant Mark White say current development rules won't lead to the kind of city envisioned during last year's Vision 2020 public planning process.

Then the crowd broke into small groups to hash out some ideas.

Among emergent thoughts for the future:

There should be no on-street parking downtown along Central Avenue, Beach Drive, Second Street and Second Avenue. More use of parking garages should be encouraged. Someone suggested that an underground parking center beneath Williams Park could accommodate 800 vehicles.

A continued mix of residences, businesses and entertainment is desirable downtown. Transportation links should be improved, including extension of the Pinellas Trail downtown. The trend toward new high-rises near the waterfront should be watched closely, with an eye toward controlling density, height and views between buildings.

Ways should be found to control burgeoning retail activity in the Tyrone area.

Acreage should be developed in the Gateway center, perhaps for recreation such as golf, tennis and equestrian activity.

Policy is not being made at the discussions, which act as a kind of think tank. Eventually, some recommendations could make their way through the approval process. The City Council ultimately must okay changes to development rules.

The next meeting is April 14 at the Bayfront Center's Sun Pavilion room. It will focus on reviewing ideas gleaned from previous sessions about neighborhoods, traffic corridors and the centers.

An "open mike" session is May 12, when residents can offer new ideas or reinforce those they have suggested previously.

Refining information will begin in the fall. The new-rules adoption process will stretch into next year, said Bob Jeffrey, manager of urban design and historic preservation.

Much information is online. The city's comprehensive plan is at Vision 2020 documents are available online at

In addition, the land development code is at The zoning ordinance is at