The U.S. 19 Corridor Redevelopment Plan is a guiding document that summarizes the current context of the corridor and sets forth an implementable vision to strengthen the identity, design, mobility and completeness of the corridor in the region.
CLEARWATER – When it comes to major traffic arteries in Pinellas County, U.S. 19 is the aorta. State and federal traffic engineers are constantly scrambling to find ways to keep the traffic moving smoothly. But, until recently, little thought has been given to coordinating the growth of the business districts along the roadsides.
In December 2012, the city hired HDR Engineering, a firm with which the city frequently does business, to create a coordinated plan for the redevelopment of the U.S. 19 corridor within the city limits of Clearwater. HDR executive Steve Schukraft was put in charge of the project.
“The U.S. 19 Corridor Redevelopment Plan is a guiding document that summarizes the current context of the corridor and sets forth an implementable vision to strengthen the identity, design, mobility and completeness of the corridor in the region,” a staff memo to the Clearwater City Council explained. “With assistance from a consultant team led by HDR, the (city’s) planning and development department worked with corridor stakeholders to define land use and development strategies to leverage the corridor’s unique locational advantages, capitalize on market opportunities, and maximize benefits of planned transit and transportation improvements.”
Schukraft instituted online polls, public meetings and a “stakeholders’ workshop” to determine what people want in the U.S. 19 corridor, and he plans more workshops before the plan is finalized. On March 31, he reported his preliminary findings at the city council’s work session.
The tentative plan divides the U.S. 19 corridor into three types of redevelopment areas: neighborhood centers, regional centers and in-between areas. It offers general guidance on the appropriate form, intensity and character that each type of area should have, and it organizes action strategies into four categories: mobility and connectivity, revitalization and redevelopment, competiveness, and sustainability.
“One of the problems is in the coding provisions you have now,” Schukraft told the council.
But city staffers are already working to correct that problem.
“The (city’s) planning and development department has moved forward with implementation of the revitalization and redevelopment strategies,” the staff memo says. “These strategies focus on the long-term retrofit and redevelopment of sites at the corridor’s regional and neighborhood centers and the ongoing transformation and improvement of the in-between areas. The strategies set the stage to allow higher development intensities and densities with corresponding design standards.”
Clearwater staffers also have been working with the Pinellas Planning Council on a new Countywide Future Land Use Map and new Countywide Plan Rules that are expected to be adopted later this year. Together, the documents are expected to classify U.S. 19 as a “multi-modal carrier” and allow the densities and intensities envisioned for its corridor.
“I like the basics of what we see here,” Councilman Hoyt Hamilton told his colleagues. He predicted that once the changes are made and people get used to them, U.S. 19 will be easier to use than it is now.
But City Manager Bill Horne warned that human nature being what it is, there will always be stakeholders who feel they are entitled to be exempted from the new U.S. 19 Corridor rules, no matter how lenient those rules may be.