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Street project may benefit businesses

Madeira Beach approves a streetscaping plan to slowvehicles on Madeira Way and make the traffic shortcut into a pedestrian-friendly road.

Published July 5, 2006

MADEIRA BEACH - A major streetscaping project that will transform Madeira Way from a traffic shortcut into a landscaped public space that invites pedestrians to shop at local stores was approved by the commission last week.

"We tried to create a sense of place," said Craig Watson of HNTB Corp. "Madeira Way was an 'important gateway between the causeway and Gulf Boulevard.' "

The two-block roadway is presently dominated by traffic that uses it as a quicker way to other destinations to the north.

Even though the four-lane roadway has speed bumps, drivers have little opportunity to see, much less stop, at local businesses, Watson said.

Watson showed the commission three designs that differed primarily in the type and number of parking spaces along the street.

He said the new design would promote economic redevelopment in the city's core business district by:

* Reducing travel lanes from four to two.* Increasing the width of sidewalks to 20 feet, landscaping with trees and plantings, and adding "bumpouts" at crosswalks.* Increasing the number of parallel parking spaces from 51 to 67.* Expanding and relandscaping the existing median.

The wider landscaped and bricked sidewalks would create inviting spaces for pedestrians to shop and enjoy open-air cafes, and could promote more nighttime activities, Watson said.

Two other proposed designs rejected by the commission called for angled parking along the roadway and would have provided fewer spaces and a narrower median.

"This will slow traffic down and let people know what is out there. The businesses along there deserve some consideration from this town," Commissioner Martha Boos said.

The city first began considering the Madeira Way streetscaping project last year. Since then, it has held several meetings with property and business owners along the street and a citywide public forum in April.

At that forum, residents overwhelmingly picked the same design now approved by the commission.

"Businesses will gain visibility with parallel parking," City Manager Jill Silverboard said.

Despite the nearly yearlong planning and discussions, Mayor Charles Parker tried to delay a decision and in the end was the lone vote against moving the project forward.

"Madeira Way is not a quaint little back street," he said. "Hundreds of vehicles use it every day. I think we will have a serious problem if we cut the lanes from two to one (in each direction)."

With design approval, the final engineering plans will be completed for project bidding.

Construction is not expected to begin until the 2007 fiscal year.

"This is the first small step in a plan for an entire new Madeira Beach. When people come over the bridge, they are going to say, "Wow, look at that,' " resident Steve Kochick said.

[Last modified July 5, 2006, 00:02:55]

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