An effort is underway to bring the same kind of economic revitalization to West Central Avenue in St. Petersburg as in trendy areas such as the Grand Central District, the Edge District and the Skyway Marina District.
The initiative will begin with a revamped streetscape that will followed by a vision and a brand for the area, city planners told about 75 people who turned out at freeFall Theatre for a public meeting Tuesday night on the design concept.
The effort will succeed only if business owners and residents work together and take ownership of the project, said City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes, who represents the area.
“You’ve heard a lot about Grand Central, the Edge District, Skyway Marina District … If you’ve heard those names, it’s not because of the money that was spent, not because of the lights or the landscaping or the way the streets are striped,” Gerdes said. “The reason you’ve heard those names is because those business owners and those residents and community members have coalesced and come to an agreement about how their piece of St. Petersburg is going to be known, how it’s going to behave, how it’s going to look. And that cohesion and that coming together is what makes success.”
The Tuesday night meeting was the last scheduled one in a series of workshops and meetings on the project, which will bring changes to Central Avenue between 58th Street and Park Street.
At earlier meetings, community members said the area is overlooked, old and tired, dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists, sprawling and lacking character, said Margaret Kubilins, traffic engineering manager for VHB, the private contractor working with the city on the project.
The district has the potential to be artistic, a draw for tourists and local from the beaches for dining and shopping, safer, welcoming and a great business opportunity, those community members said.
Kubilins outlined the streetscape projects that are planned:
- Reconstructed curb and curb ramps, sidewalks, and driveways for safety and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Span wires will be replaced with new mast arm traffic signal poles at three intersections.
- Crosswalks will be enhanced at four intersections.
- Street lighting will be improved.
While the work is underway, the existing water main will be replaced with an 8-inch waterline along the northern edge of the roadway. Most meters will be placed underground.
Parts of West Central Avenue will have landscape medians, which work to slow traffic, Kubilins said. There also will be bike lanes on Central, replacing the bike lanes 1st Avenue North and 1st Avenue South that have to be relocated to make way for Bus Rapid Transit, she said.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2019 and be completed by late 2020. The project is being funded by Penny for Pinellas and the city’s water resources department.
Branding will come during the next phase of the project, Kubilins said. Some names that have been suggested for the area are West End, West Central, West Central District and Shops on West Central.