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2 neighborhoods get help with beautification efforts

By ANDREW MEACHAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Neighbors in the city's Challenge area are combining grant dollars with ingenuity to make their streets more attractive.

At Thursday's City Council meeting, the Lake Maggiore Shores and Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres neighborhood associations will present ambitious plans to add signs, lighting and landscaping, as well as a host of other projects ranging from improved housing to traffic calming and sidewalks.

If the council approves the plans, each neighborhood will have $100,000 of city money at their disposal to start implementing some of the changes. Beyond that, the two neighborhoods' funding sources differ somewhat. Neighborhood planner Michelle Heinrich of the city's Neighborhood Partnership described the $1.13-million Lake Maggiore Shores plan as "city-initiated."

"That means the city essentially said, "This is an area we want to work on or improve,' " Heinrich said.

Some of the funding for Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres will come from the Urban Institute at Florida A&M University and from the St. Petersburg Employment and Economic Development Corporation, or SEEDCO.

Officials at the city's Community Affairs department, SEEDCO and the Neighborhood Partnership office chose Melrose-Mercy for an experimental program called Revitalize Urban Neighborhoods, or RUN. The RUN model works, according to the neighborhood plan, "by looking at all quality of life issues within the neighborhood" and getting residents, businesses and local government together.

A total figure for Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres is not yet available. Even if it were, the numbers can be misleading, planners warned.

"A neighborhood plan is a guide -- it's not a bible," said partnership coordinator Regenia Wade. "It shows that there is a support base for improvements."

Backing from the City Council releases funds that speed up some of those improvements. But not all of the monies named in a plan are controlled by the council. Alley paving, for example -- currently the most expensive part of Lake Maggiore Shores plan at an estimated $936,060 -- entails the neighborhood securing community development block grants, which are administered by the city's department of Housing and Community Development.

Costs for traffic-calming items including 10 speed humps, 14 medians and a raised intersection are left blank, or "to be determined," as are estimates for proposed park projects and housing improvements.

"Residents often think that once a plan is done, the improvements will automatically happen," said neighborhood planner Bernice Darling, who is also Lake Maggiore Shores' president. "It doesn't always work that way."

Conducting surveys or tracking down absentee owners of property abutting targeted sidewalks or alleys are just a couple of factors that can slow down a plan's implementation. Even so, Darling and Heinrich agreed, about 75 percent to 80 percent of what gets approved in plans eventually becomes fact.

Both Lake Maggiore Shores and Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres are seeking decorative lighting, landscaping and signs denoting either individual streets or the neighborhood itself. The Lake Maggiore Shores plan calls for single-headed Flagler lamps staggered on either side of 16th Street S from 22nd Avenue S to Lake Maggiore, at a cost of $18,464, and another $21,664 worth of double-headed lamps in a median strip to be built into 26th Avenue S. The Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres plan calls for similar lamps along Ninth Avenue S and 15th Avenue S, between 16th Street and 22nd Street, at an estimated cost of $9,095.

Other neighborhoods might also have been eligible for city-initiated projects, but the neighborhood associations have successful grant projects underway through the Neighborhood Partnership.

"Because of our workload, they don't want to hear, "We'll get to it in two years,' " Heinrich said.

Flashing numerical signs that tell drivers how fast they are going do reduce speeding -- for about two weeks. The city does not keep data from the three signs that stay in one place for a week at a time before rotating around the city. But traffic engineers have conducted "before-and-after" surveys to measure the impact of the signs on speeding, said Michael Frederick, a neighborhood transportation manager.

"For about two weeks after the sign removal, traffic at those spots slows by an average of 6 to 10 miles per hour," Frederick said. "But after two weeks, people tend to forget about it and return to the speeds they were doing previously."

Meetings

BAYOU BONITA: 7 p.m. Wednesday. Munch's Sundries and Restaurant, 3920 Sixth St. S. Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford, City Council candidate Robert Eschenfelder.

CHILDS PARK: 7 p.m. Monday. Childs Park Recreation Center, 4301 13th Ave. S. Mayoral candidates.

CRESCENT LAKE: 7 p.m. Thursday. Huggins-Stengel clubhouse, 1320 Fifth St. N. Finalize 2001 neighborhood objectives.

DISSTON HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Tuesday. Gladden Park Recreation Center, 3901 30th Ave. N. Mayoral candidate Omali Yeshitela, others.

EAGLE CREST: 7 p.m. Tuesday. St. Petersburg Catholic High School media center, 6333 Ninth Ave. N. Metro Crime Awareness presentation. Pizza, soda provided.

EDGEMOOR: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Faith Covenant Church, 150 62nd Ave. NE. Metro Crime Awareness presentation.

HARBORDALE: 6 p.m. Monday. Trinity United Methodist Church. 2401 Fifth St. S. Crime prevention officer Chip Wells, Y-Achievers director Shabazz Rogers.

LAKEWOOD TERRACE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Lake Maggiore Baptist Church, 4100 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. S.

MAGNOLIA HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Thursday. Woodlawn Presbyterian Church, 2612 12th St. N. Mayoral, City Council candidates.

MEL-TAN HEIGHTS: 5 p.m. Tuesday. 2901 18th Ave. S. Public service representative Debbie Larson.

MELROSE-MERCY/PINE ACRES: 7 p.m. Tuesday. 20th Street Church of Christ, 820 20th St. S. Police presentation on auto theft.

NORTHEAST PARK: 7:30 p.m. Monday. Masonic Home, 3201 First St. N. Mayoral candidates Kathleen Ford, Karl Nurse, Omali Yeshitela.

NORTH KENWOOD: 7:30 p.m. Monday. Edward White Hospital auditorium, 2323 Ninth Ave. N. Police Sgt. Gary Dukeman on auto theft.

WOODLAWN OAKS: 7 p.m. Tuesday. D&J's Cafe, 2050 15th St. N. Open forum.

COUNCIL OF BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS: 8 a.m. Tuesday. Chamber of Commerce, 100 Second Ave. N.

MLK BUSINESS DISTRICT: 8 a.m. Wednesday. George F. Young conference room, 855 Burlington Ave. N. Candidates forum.

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