Gulfport City Council is considering a pricey project that would make Gulfport Boulevard walkable and decorative.
Gulfport Boulevard bears the city’s name in its title, but is it due for a makeover? A future redevelopment project aims to address just that.
“Gulfport Boulevard, we have neglected in a sense over the years … we’ve put a lot of time and effort into downtown and other parts of the City,” Gulfport Councilmember Michael Fridovich (Ward IV) said at a Tuesday, March 15 council meeting.
He went into loose detail, mentioning a potential crosswalk, a road mural, added foliage, and low-to-the-ground decorative streetlights.
“It would be nice if we could get a walkway in front of Maddy’s Spa and Habana Cafe,” Fridovich said. “We’re getting more and more walkable businesses.”
A road mural, much like St. Petersburg’s “Black Lives Matter”, was also thrown in the mix of ideas.
“Some kind of funky ‘Welcome to Gulfport’ mural,” Fridovich suggested.
Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly cautioned council about high costs that come with launching a full-blown road redevelopment project. In his former job as Leisure Services on St. Pete Beach, O’Reilly oversaw the 2002-3 improvements on the north end of the St. Pete Beach’s Gulf Boulevard.
“Understand that any of these things are going to take an investment,” O’Reilly said. “Pretty sizable, from my experience doing roadway projects like this.”
The next steps, according to O’Reilly, would be for the City of Gulfport to draft a formal letter outlining their asks to Pinellas County. The County could possibly pay for parts of the project, but Gulfport will first need to determine some costs.
“They may have funds available,” O’Reilly told The Gabber. “Street lights, any type of aesthetic improvements would be on us, but additional crosswalks could be something Pinellas pays for.”
The City will also need to receive estimates from Duke Energy, draft a landscape plan, and tally costs.
“I’d love to be doing Gulfport Boulevard, as long as you can afford it,” O’Reilly said.
Despite warnings of steep costs, Council expressed interest in continuing toward a beautification process of Gulfport Boulevard, which regularly sees less foot traffic than, say, downtown Gulfport.
Adding aesthetically pleasing elements and making the road more walkable could bring more business to the area, supporters say.
“Gulfport Boulevard is the gateway to Gulfport; let’s beautify it like the rest of Gulfport,” Fridovich told The Gabber.
That idea isn’t lost on the business owners of Gulfport Boulevard. Recently, four of the Boulevard’s shops [Thai Orchids & Leis, Beach House 5317, Boulevard Shoppe, and Sail Market] have banded together to host monthly block parties that bring the community to their street.
Beach House 5317 owner Jamie Edwards says a project highlighting Gulfport Boulevard is something she’s rooting for.
“I think it would be amazing for the businesses that are here, a little out of the downtown area,” Edwards said. “Bring some beautification to the Boulevard.”
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