ST. PETE BEACH – For several years plans to refurbish Corey Avenue have been little more than a fanciful forgotten dream.
However, in their 2019 budget, city officials allocated $250,000 to revamp the city’s 81-year-old historic business district into a tourist mecca.
City Manager Wayne Saunders asked Jerry Dabkowski, senior vice president at George F. Young to come up with suggestions on how Corey Avenue might get a much-needed facelift.
During a commission meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 4, Dabkowski told officials “overall (Corey Avenue) pretty much stayed the same for a long, long time. We talked about it back in 2013 and kind of lost a little bit of steam, but tonight I thought I would show you a couple of concepts and ideas of what Corey Avenue could look like.”
One revisited concept involves adding an archway “that was talked about in the past, so both ends have some type of entrance feature that stands out more than the brick planter on Gulf Boulevard,” the consultant suggested.
Dabkowski said the district’s street lighting can be enhanced with instillation of LED bulbs in fixtures along the avenue. In addition, new types of streetscapes can be implemented to beautify the corridor with different types of plants and vegetation that withstand the heat.
“Landscaping has come a long way with different plants that are much more tolerant to heat and don’t have to have irrigation all the time,” Dabkowski advised.
He suggested the city can look at the different types of pavement, such as permeable and porous “green pavement” that absorbs rain rather than letting it run off, or colored and textured pavement that may reduce the heat emanating from the street.
In addition, roadway stripping can be revamped to provide more parking spaces and make it safer for pedestrians to cross. The city’s ADA ramps are “pretty old and outdated,” Dabkowski told officials. The city should consider updating its ADA ramps as part of the project.
“ADA has changed in terms of handrails, and we’d like to consider brick pavers or different textures on ADA ramps, so it gives more feeling for users,” he said.
Bulb-outs at intersections, with landscaping, would provide more of an area where pedestrians can congregate and safely cross, with less time in the roadway.
With new parking standards and the different sizes of cars, the city may want to consider different angled parking to get one or two more spaces.
“In some areas, there is a lot of dead space that’s just stripped-out,” the consultant noted. He suggested taking a look at the number of parking spaces or changing parking angles and lane widths.
In addition, state-of-the-art electrical boxes can be installed that are flush with the pavement so no one knows they are there, until used by vendors at festivals.
“As for access, there are some driveways along Corey that could be closed or changed, so motorists come in from a side street instead of direct access into the property. We’d like to make sure we have good access into all the businesses … and good access to driveways that are really needed. One or two driveways may be adjusted or combined together. We think everything can be changed within curb to curb so as not to change the drainage. If we have ponding areas we can fix those,” he told commissioners.
Commissioner Terri Finnerty said she liked all suggestions offered by Dabkowski.
“We want to bring to you something that really makes Corey Avenue pop, so it will really be a place where people want to go and walk” and sit on benches under shade trees, Debkowski told commissioners.
Finnerty said many business owners she spoke with mentioned wanting bulb-outs at corners and outdoor electrical outlets.
“I know it’s a money issue, but we did put money in the budget this year,” she added.
Saunders noted “we had these conceptual ideas for several years and (now) we do have the budget to move forward with preliminary plans.”
“It will probably be a multiyear project,” the city manager said.
Commissioner Rick Falkenstein noted “you want to think about west Corey will eventually develop, east Corey is going to develop, so you are going to have people traversing across Gulf Boulevard. When you say an arch for Corey Avenue what about a pedestrian walkover to avoid the traffic?”
Commissioner Ward Friszolowski said he “would caution against the walkover for a lot of reasons. It’s not only the expense, you got ADA issues, I can’t imagine getting an elevator on one side and an elevator on the other side. We want to keep people on the street.”
“We can be a lot more effective with the bulb-outs, and with some nice landscaping; it will have a major impact. We owe it to our downtown street to do whatever we can. You’re starting on a core area which is good and then it will go further west and east,” Friszolowski added.
The city manager told commissioners, with the consensus to move forward with a restoration plan, Debkowski will return with a preliminary conceptual plan for commissioners for review. Once a design is approved by commissioners, the city will bid out the project for implementation in stages.