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Gulfport wants 49th Street makeover details

Officials like the pictures of the proposed makeover, but are concerned with the cost details.

By ANGEL BEDINGHAUS ZENT
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002


GULFPORT -- Architects last week presented their ideas for the 49th Street makeover and city officials say they like the pretty pictures. Now they want specifics, such as, how much will this cost?

The Community Redevelopment Agency approved of virtually everything -- the decorative lighting, the crosswalks, the landscaped medians, the trees and shrubbery. Two officials, City Council member John "Ted" Phillips and Mayor Michael Yakes, requested another design for the city facility that would be built at the Bay Machine property, 1617 49th St. S.

(The City Council sits as the CRA, which oversees the waterfront and 49th Street redevelopment districts.)

The next time the groups meet, the architects will bring cost estimates. City Manager Bob Lee estimates it will be spring or early summer before residents see the first tree planted and dirt overturned at Bay Machine.

But Lee said the city needs to move along on the project if they want to retain two grants that expire in September. A federal Community Development Block Grant for $300,000 will be used for developing the Bay Machine site (Lee estimates the city will need to kick in up to $200,000 from their share of the Penny for Pinellas tax for the building).

Another $82,900 grant is coming from the Florida Department of Transportation for landscaping. Lee said that wouldn't go far, but once things are finalized and under construction, staff will have a better chance of securing more grants.

Landscape architect David Flanagan of Phil Graham & Co. and project architect Emmett Walsh of Architectural Concepts have been developing the plans since last spring, working with the Economic Development Advisory Committee and meeting with public in workshops.

Many of the ideas reflected the corridor's restraints such as wide driveways into parking lots, limited parking, and the lack of space for landscaping.

Among the concepts the agency approved were:

TANGERINE GREENWAY: Enhance the line of trees with shrubbery to create a more natural setting. Build a meandering walkway through the greenway. Install decorative light posts. Use interlocking pavers or stamped asphalt for the crosswalks.

49TH STREET: Use tree grates on parking strips which can be walked and driven over to create landscaping space without losing parking spaces. Break up wide driveways with islands of landscaping. Install decorative lighting. Put in landscaped medians where possible and use stamped asphalt strategically in other places. Create "gateways" at the north and south ends of the corridor with monuments, maybe as large as 14 feet by 10 feet.

BAY MACHINE PROPERTY: Erect a 2,700-square-foot building with police substation and cruiser parking in front. The building also would have a hall and kitchenette. Behind the building there will be parking, plus a city storage area.

The architects' renderings showed a Mediterranean look, like Stetson University College of Law, and a traditional look with brickwork and metal roof.

Two city officials had something else in mind.

"I envisioned a building for kids and for people, not really for looks," said Phillips, the vice mayor, who wants as much space as possible for neighbors using the building.

"All of the designs I think are beautiful, I really do. But, I honestly don't think they're very practical. This is Gulfport. Gulfport tends to be very practical. They get the biggest bang for the buck."

Walsh said the design of the building's interior, with a 34-by-50-foot multipurpose hall and office space for police, is flexible and utilitarian. He said the Economic Development Advisory Committee wanted the building to set a trend for the strip's business owners to renovate.

"The premium we are paying for the looks is good investment and relatively small in the overall construction," said Walsh. He estimated costs run about 15 percent higher for a stylish building as opposed to a simpler design such as City Hall.

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