County did all the right things in Palm Harbor

By Times editorial
Published March 30, 2007

F or those who might visit, downtown Palm Harbor has its makeup on and is ready to show a fresh, new face. Drive around - or better yet, walk - and it is immediately apparent the impact that county improvement projects have had over the last several years.

Florida Avenue, downtown Palm Harbor's historic main street, now has new pavement, wide sidewalks (imagine that!), curbs, brick street accents and lots of new landscaping. The project, completed by Pinellas County at a cost of $2.5-million, helps soften the street and gives it a tropical touch, yet it retains a feeling of history.

Other streets forming the blocks around Florida Avenue have been refurbished too. Georgia Avenue, for example, got new storm sewers to channel rainwater underground and stop flooding. Then new sidewalks and brick intersections were added in a project that used $2-million of Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue.

The county's efforts also shine in the block of Georgia Avenue where the historic White Chapel is located. The county bought the land under the quaint 1924 chapel and county workers fully restored it inside and out. The restoration won an outstanding achievement award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.

Beside the chapel, the county built Harbor Hall, a new meeting facility designed to look right beside the old chapel, and a public parking area. The project has created a popular venue for weddings and recitals, but it also has brought a clean, fresh look to that part of the downtown and added activity where there was none.

Before the recent Penny for Pinellas referendum, some residents of Palm Harbor grumbled that the county "never does anything" for Palm Harbor. While residents might justifiably complain that Palm Harbor, which would be the county's fourth-largest city if it were incorporated, has not gotten its fair share of Penny for Pinellas revenue, the downtown area alone is testament to the county's willingness to invest in the area. The county projects have made a real difference there.

The community's challenge now is to get smart people working hard to create plans for marketing the downtown and recruiting new businesses.If marketed correctly, downtown Palm Harbor can become a logical stop for tourists traveling Alt. U.S. 19 between the equally attractive destinations of Tarpon Springs and Dunedin.