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City squashes proposal to narrow Pasadena Ave.

Narrowing the road seems like a good idea

By AMY WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


SOUTH PASADENA -- To most of Pinellas County, Pasadena Avenue is a means of getting to the beach, and the stores of South Pasadena just the last chance for snacks before heading over the Corey Causeway and onto the sand.

City officials, looking for a way to encourage passers-by to stop and frequent local businesses, came up with a vision that included added landscaping, widened sidewalks and undergrounded utilities along the city's main strip.

The dreamscape also involved controversial plans for reducing the number of lanes on Pasadena Avenue from six to four, making the thoroughfare more Main Street than beeline.

But after a meeting Tuesday morning, the notion of narrowing the avenue has been all but abandoned.

Local business people, invited to City Hall on Tuesday to offer their opinions on the new plan, were overwhelmingly opposed, saying the idea would backfire.

"It's going to cause so much congestion that people are going to find other routes to get to the beaches," said Linda Jones, store manager of Albertson's.

From Jay Arthur, owner of Jay's Fabric Center, who has been doing business in South Pasadena for 42 years: "I don't think you are planning for the year 2010. I think you are living in the year 1980."

From Joseph Schlagheck, chief operating officer of Palms of Pasadena Hospital: "Our concern is for emergency vehicles coming through there."

And Randy Russell, the managing partner at Causeway Village who was concerned about hurricane evacuations: "This city is going to be a major conduit as people flee the beaches."

After Tuesday's meeting, it was hard to find a city commissioner who would admit to ever liking the idea in the first place. Mayor Fred Held even read from previous meetings' minutes, proving that he always had insisted the city let a voter referendum decide whether to reduce the thoroughfare to four lanes.

"We have to find the answer for this, but that is not the answer," Commissioner Chris Burgess said.

Linda Hallas, the city attorney, said most of the city's visioning plan dealt with beautifying Pasadena Avenue, and most of the plans for beautification revolved around making it narrower. The visioning plan likely will be placed on the City Commission's agenda again sometime soon, she said.

"All the traffic-calming things involve reducing the lanes," Hallas said.

The visioning plan was created during three days of sessions in which residents devised ideas for making the small city, where the median age is 71 and most people live in condominiums, feel more like a community.

Short-term goals included a new sign ordinance, synchronization of stoplights on Pasadena Avenue, improving conditions for pedestrians, increasing landscaping, forming a merchants' association and developing an identity for the business district.

The long-term goals included the Pasadena Avenue makeover.

Commissioner Dick Holmes said the city will have to continue searching for ways to make South Pasadena look less like a concrete jungle.

That's difficult in a one-square-mile city of 6,000 divided by a six-lane road. Commissioners had hoped their plan would make South Pasadena more pedestrian-friendly, as well as help beautify it.

"I'm sure that everyone will agree that South Pasadena is not pretty," Holmes said.

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