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Commissioners, merchants brainstorm city's makeover

In Treasure Island, landscape architects have a get-together to discuss ideas for downtown.

By KATHY SAUNDERS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2000


TREASURE ISLAND -- Picture downtown on an artist's canvas. So far, the landscape architects hired to refresh the city's business district have decided on flower-filled medians, tall, graceful palms and gooseneck lampposts. On Wednesday, they welcomed city commissioners and about 40 downtown merchants to brainstorm beautification.

They got a bit more than that as the discussion reached into improving access to businesses and creating more parking spaces. One merchant presented his own dream of building a three-story parking garage over Central Avenue near Gulf Boulevard.

Landscape architects Phil Graham and Jake Zimmerman started Wednesday's get-together with some new ideas of their own.

Graham suggested that the city designate pedestrian walkways with the same muted orange and yellow bricks that it used to pave the entrance to the police station parking lot.

He brought pictures of white aluminum benches and matching trash containers. And he recommended that the city use similar white accents throughout downtown. Graham also said business owners could contribute plants and flowers in large urns in the center median, which he plans to widen.

Treasure Island plans to spend about $500,000 in the Central Avenue Business District. The city's share of the beautification also includes establishing two 10-foot-wide pedestrian walkways that will lead from City Hall through downtown to the Community Center on 106th Avenue.

On Central Avenue, Graham proposed several options, including the elimination of an entrance to the shopping centers on both sides of the street.

Herb Dowling, who owns much of the business space downtown, objected to any of the entrances' being closed, saying he didn't want to change the access or eliminate any parking.

Graham provided copies of the proposed designs and asked the merchants to make suggestions about the entrances and the parking. They plan to meet again at 5:30 p.m. July 11 at City Hall, 120 108th Ave.

Dowling's son Bob, who manages some of the property downtown, presented his own plans for a Mayan temple-like parking garage that he said would provide parking, shade and a gathering place for shoppers.

"It's just an idea and we had fun with it," Dowling said. He brought a rendering of the garage as well as a small model. He estimated that the project would cost $880,000.

City Manager Chuck Coward said Dowling's garage would require changes to the city's land development regulations. And there was the matter of paying for it.

Downtown business owner and former Commissioner George Makrauer called the parking garage "striking and fascinating. I think that it has to be considered as an option."

Mayor Leon Atkinson said the parking garage is an idea "that could be looked at down the line."

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