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Corey redevelopment plan vote delayed
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Corey Avenue has long been the downtown business district for St. Pete Beach. A one-way couplet to create a smoother traffic flow through the area is among the items under consideration in conjunction with the Corey redevelopment plan. St. Pete Beach Commissioners are still mulling over whether they want the couplet or not.
ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners decided June 24 to delay action on accepting the final version of the St. Pete Beach Downtown Corey Avenue Master Plan.

Following a 20-minute presentation by Susan Harden and Jerry Dabkowski of Michael Baker Inc., commissioners expressed concern over the concept of a traffic couplet through the Corey business district and whether the remainder of the vision plan could be implemented without the couplet as part of it.

Rather than voting to accept the plan, the commission decided it was best to postpone a vote until city staff has a chance to review the plans. Once that portion is complete and more feedback from residents is received, commissioners will likely approve the plan with or without the couplet.

The couplet is one of the primary drivers of Corey plan. It features one-way auto traffic in two lanes westbound on 75th Avenue to Gulf Boulevard, two blocks south on Gulf Boulevard to 73rd Avenue, one block east on 73rd to Blind Pass Road, and two blocks north on Blind Pass Road to 75th Avenue.

Southbound traffic on Blind Pass Road would be unchanged. Northbound traffic on Gulf Boulevard would be directed through the core of the Corey district, which has received the endorsement of the Corey Area Business Association.

Proposed gateways to the Corey district would be located at 75th Avenue and Blind Pass Road, and Gulf Boulevard and Corey Avenue.

According to planners, the effects of the couplet would be improved pedestrian visibility, the addition of about 60 more on-street parking spaces, enhanced exposure to the downtown Corey district, opportunity to beautify streets and reduce speeds and enhance the city’s evacuation routes.

However, the couplet is something District 2 Commissioner Rick Falkenstein doesn’t want to see happen.

“If we put that couplet in, my residents will be totally inconvenienced,” Falkenstein said. “I’m in favor of the plan but I’m totally against the couplet.”

Commissioner Terri Finnerty, who represents District 1 and the area where the Corey district is located, said the responses she has received on the couplet concept have been mixed.

“Some people support it and some people hate it,” Finnerty said. “And they’re not shy about what they’re saying.”

Mayor Maria Lowe asked if it was possible to adopt the plan without the couplet.

City attorney Susan Cheruti said yes.

“Anything you do is a conceptual plan at this point and you have some flexibility with implementation of the plan,” Cheruti said. “It’s contemplated you may have some priorities or circumstances that may change. It’s not unusual.”

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher asked how effective the plan would be without the couplet.

“It’s the major driver for the improvements on 75th and Gulf and trying to bridge the areas east and west of Gulf and Corey in a better fashion,” said Harden. “But there are plenty of other areas of the vision plan that do not include 75th and Gulf.

“There are many aspects that are still very effective,” Harden continued. “Intersection enhancements may not happen as exactly as depicted but those treatments could still occur on those intersections. It’s a section of 75th and a section of Gulf where you have landscaping and all that room for amenities. That’s less likely in other scenarios but it doesn’t mean you can’t make some use of them.”

Finnerty expressed concern about speeding traffic coming onto the island from South Pasadena.

“That traffic coming in on 75th and turning onto Gulf Boulevard really needs to be slowed down,” she said. “If there’s any way you can do that, it would be good to look at.”

Jabkowski said there are some options available for safety enhancement.

“For instance, at Corey and Gulf Boulevard, coming around that curve, I would be happy to work with Steve Hallock on that,” said Jabkowski. “Perhaps we can get some people from FDOT to participate with enhanced signage and markings, maybe a lower speed limit, maybe extended pedestrian timings to cross Gulf Boulevard.”

In addition to the couplet, the final plan includes a pedestrian bridge over 75th Avenue from the recreation center to the current city hall, unique sidewalk configurations, an additional parking lot near the current city library site, a bike lane on 75th Avenue, lower building heights on the east and west ends of Corey Avenue, unique streetscape furniture, a landscape palate with more native plants and gateway treatments using vertical piers.

Assuming the plan is approved, the next steps would include sharing and marketing the concept to potential redevelopment interests, prioritizing improvements, identifying funding methods and working with FDOT on roadway upgrades.
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