CLEARWATER — That disruption in the middle of Cleveland Street in the East Gateway area? That’s a road construction project five years in the making.
With design work that began in 2016, Cleveland Street Phase III broke ground last week to replace underground utilities, build new sidewalks and bike lanes, improve stormwater infrastructure and reconfigure on-street parking.
The $16.2 million project stretches between South Missouri Avenue and North Highland Avenue, the 1-mile segment around where Cleveland Street doglegs into Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. Construction is expected to be completed in January 2023 with lane shifts but no closures of businesses.
“This project is intended to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety and improve the street-level experience through the use of Complete Streets features including designated pedestrian and bicycle lanes,” engineering project manager Catherine Corcoran said, referencing the transportation policy that aims to make streets safe for all users.
The Phase III portion follows the reconfiguration of two segments of Cleveland Street to the west that began 15 years ago as part of a downtown revitalization effort. The first $10 million portion between Myrtle and Osceola avenues was completed in 2007 after 18 months, which installed winding medians, improved sidewalks and brought landscaping, benches, streetlights and stormwater upgrades.
The second phase finished in 2012 after more than a year of construction. That $2.9 million portion trimmed the road between Myrtle and Missouri avenues from four lanes to two and added a median, lighting and landscaping.
The first two phases closed Cleveland Street to traffic and brought a litany of complaints from residents about the inconvenience. Merchants also complained about how the lane closures and disruptive construction areas hurt their businesses.
This time, city officials are emphasizing that traffic will continue in both directions, and businesses along the route will remain open. The city is encouraging residents to attend standing “office hours” on the project every Friday from 10 am to 11 a.m. at Nature’s Food Patch, 1225 Cleveland St.
“All three phases of Cleveland Street have the goal of providing a unified, cohesive, pedestrian-friendly corridor from the Gateway to the Downtown waterfront,” Corcoran said.
The third phase also includes the construction of a festival core at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The festival core design replaces the mercado concept, originally approved in 2017, according to public information coordinator Robert Napper. The festival core will have a large shade structure and storage area for removable furniture that will be available for community events. It will also be designed to accommodate food trucks.
City officials previously expected construction on the streetscape phase to begin in 2018. But a consultant hired in 2017 discovered the roadway needed a full reconstruction due to irregular cross sections and drainage issues, as well as a replacement of potable and sanitary systems that were nearing the end of their useful life, Corcoran said.
Revised plans were completed in December.
(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story contained incorrect information from the city of Clearwater on the “festival core” element of the Cleveland Street project.)