Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Visions of a new downtown
Developers are looking at the heart of Brooksville as the site for their new projects.
By DAN DEWITT, Times Staff Writer
Published August 20, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - All three sites are within a few hundred yards of downtown Brooksville and look like they could use some attention.
One is 5 acres of vine-tangled woods near Howell and Florida avenues; another, north of Rogers' Christmas House Village, includes two old gas stations; the third is the former Brooksville Regional Hospital, with boarded windows and its name fading from the green awning over the entrance.
Developers want to transform all three of these properties, and, in the process, the dominant development pattern in the city.
In recent years, city officials and builders have focused on projects far from downtown such as Majestic Oaks and Southern Hills Plantation. But three developers now want to build near the core of the city, either on long-vacant lots or on land occupied by outdated buildings.
"Each of these projects represent a renewed interest in using the assets we have now," said City Council member Lara Bradburn. "We don't always have to start from scratch. We can take what's there and build on it."
- Hilltop Partners LLC, led by retired mining executive Tommy Bronson, plans three buildings with about 60,000 square feet for apartments, stores and offices on the land near the Christmas House.
- Vallery Custom Homes of Clermont will market new houses with traditional designs - and prices between $300,000 and $450,000 - on 11 lots carved from the land near Howell.
- A group of investors called 55 Ponce de Leon LLC plans to turn the old hospital site into Oaks Towne Centre, a plaza with shops, offices and a 60-bed assisted living facility.
Not everybody likes the plans' details, especially Hilltop's request to include a stretch of Saxon Avenue, which the City Council will discuss at its meeting tonight.
But almost every planner and businessperson agrees that building close to downtown is a good idea.
It cuts the strain on infrastructure by placing residents within walking distance of shops, restaurants and, possibly, their jobs. More residents near downtown should mean more customers for downtown businesses. Two of the projects will renew dilapidated properties.
Jim Carman, one of the partners in the Hilltop project, calls the intersection of E Jefferson and N Broad streets the city's "front door" because it greets drivers arriving from Interstate 75.
"It's really somewhat unsightly," Carman said. The partner's property includes the former Uncle Joe's convenience store and gas station, where the partners have removed gasoline-contaminated soil, and a BP station, where they plan to.
These buildings will be replaced by three structures built as close as possible to the road to partly conceal parking lots - the traditional city pattern copied in "new urbanism" communities such as Celebration near Orlando.
The architecture will blend with older buildings in the city.
"Our goal now is just to create a design that is consistent with what old Brooksville looks like," said Carman, who helped Bronson renovate the Brooksville Country Club.
Finally, the Hilltop project, along with the hospital site, includes an element that has long been the holy grail of downtown renovation: mixed use. That means placing apartments in the same building as shops and offices, so residents could potentially live, work and shop without venturing onto a road.
"Mixed use is one of the concepts of smart growth, putting people in close proximity to where they live and work," said Bill Geiger, the city's community development director.
The city Planning and Zoning Commission approved plans for the Hilltop project in May, and tonight the council will vote only on whether to give the stretch of Saxon to the developers.
Some object to plans
Anthony and Sharon Pedonesi, who live on nearby Fort Dade Avenue, said deeding the right of way to the Hilltop group would block the safest and most direct route to U.S. 41.
Anthony Pedonesi, an engineer, also wrote a letter objecting to the project, including that too much space along the roads is devoted to the parking lot and not enough to the oaks and azaleas that help define downtown Brooksville.
And, curiously for a project that promotes walking, the plans do not include sidewalks, said Pedonesi, who also said he doubted Brooksville is ready for a mixed-use development, especially one just a half-mile from the center of downtown.
"To me that speaks to the fact that this project is not going to be an economic success, and when that happens, neglect comes into play - lack of care," he said.
Carman said the partners plan to build sidewalks, that the size of the parking lot is determined by city ordinances and, likewise, that the landscape ordinance will ensure that plenty of trees and shrubs are planted on the property. If the city does give up the Saxon right of way, the owners would be required to continue to allow traffic to pass through, Geiger said.
Even so, turning over public right of way has proved to be a bad idea in the past, Bradburn said. The city did it to make room for the parking lot at the county Government Center, creating a traffic obstacle in downtown Brooksville.
Changing city policy
The Hilltop plan did not go before the City Council because it did not require a zoning change, Geiger said. It should have, Bradburn said, and she may consider changing the city policy to make sure that the council has the power to approve such projects in the future.
"This is our chance to really beautify that entire intersection and make it an attractive gateway," said Bradburn, who supports the project but said she wants the city to have more assurances about its design.
"I was told by staff that it was coming before council, not just the vacation issue, and when Tony Pedonesi stood up at the (Aug. 6) meeting and said it wasn't, all the council members looked at each other and said, 'What? News to us.' "
Vallery has also received approval for its project, which will include underground pipes to improve drainage in the neighborhood and a contribution to a new network of water lines designed to improve fire protection.
Yes, the prices for his homes will be far higher than surrounding properties, said Mark Vallery, president of the company, which also builds houses in Southern Hills. But Brooksville has some features that upscale developments such as Celebration have copied, such as brick streets, and others, especially 100-year-old oaks, that they cannot.
"I think the whole idea is to go back to a simpler time, a walking, front-porch community," Vallery said.
New-urban communities "are really popular because of this lifestyle. But instead of re-creating this and building a whole new city, you can just go into a city and it's already provided."