TREASURE ISLAND — Treasure Island commissioners have embraced a consultant’s report from 16 years ago on redeveloping the downtown.
The report called for transforming 107th Avenue into the epicenter of a pedestrian-friendly commercial district and welcoming projects that incorporate mixed-use residential units over retail, offices and restaurants.
Another big change suggested for 107th Avenue would be to install a traffic circle at the 104th/108th avenue intersection to slow traffic, while creating a more pedestrian-friendly experience.
The downtown redevelopment plan also recommended driveways and parking spaces be relocated from 107th Avenue to the parallel alley on 108th Avenue, 106th Avenue or 1st Street East, wherever redevelopment occurs.
During a Nov. 15 work session, Mayor Tyler Payne told fellow commissioners downtown redevelopment may be drawing closer.
“There has been some consolidation of ownership downtown, and there has been some movement on plans for redevelopment,” he said.
Payne added that he has heard community concerns about the amount of change that could be coming. But he said the plans have been vetted and reviewed appropriately.
“I completely agree that having those units right there is essential to support a vital commercial area,” Payne said. “Not something over the top, not a Miami Beach or even Clearwater Beach, because I know a lot of our residents are scared about overdevelopment. But just having a sustainable commercial area with businesses and restaurants, and coffee shops, and things that can sustain themselves in that area. It’s important to have that walkability factor and people right there in that area to be able to access those services.”
Kathryn Younkin, assistant director of community development, reminded commissioners that the Downtown Redevelopment Plan “was a 2006 project that involved extensive community input and a four-day design charrette.”
During ensuing years, the city made changes to its Land Development Code that would permit redevelopment to take place, she said.
For example, in 2012 the city adopted future land use and zoning for planned development, including mixed-use, for downtown and Gulf Boulevard adjacent to downtown. Then in 2014, the city commission passed a Revised Special Area Plan, and in 2015 Downtown Design Regulations were adopted.
“There are numerous upcoming projects that the city is initiating, in and around downtown, that will be possible because of changes adopted several years ago,” Younkin said.
Planned redevelopment envisions the epicenter of downtown to concentrate pedestrian activity along 107th Avenue and the east side of Gulf Boulevard. It promotes public-private partnerships to create above-ground parking structures, while recognizing the importance of on-street parking.
The consultant’s report envisions adjacent property owners working together to leverage their assets, Younkin told commissioners. For example, if somebody owns a 15-foot-wide parcel, it could be redeveloped with a neighboring property.
“The idea is to have an incremental, phased approach to redevelopment,” Younkin said.
“There was a general consensus (in the consultant’s report) that downtown was not a pedestrian-friendly place,” she said, noting pedestrian redevelopment has not occurred since the 2006 report was written.
It recommended sidewalks be redesigned to include shade trees so pedestrians can have a comfortable walking experience.
A drawing from the city’s downtown plan depicts a three-story parking garage, along with a 12-foot-wide covered pedestrian arcade, a 22-foot multi-use path and a 4-foot-wide bike lane taken from one of 107th Avenue’s travel lanes. Travel lanes on 107th can be narrowed to address more mobility, drafters of the plan suggested.
Assistant Public Works Director Stacey Boyles said that those who drafted the development plan wanted to create an inviting network of open spaces and greenspace, focusing not just on large parks but also on small little pocket park areas.
Staff noted that once the old City Hall and Public Safety buildings are relocated and demolished, a waterfront park with commercial boat slips on 108th Avenue will play a big part in downtown redevelopment, along with the newly proposed police and fire headquarters abutting 105th Avenue downtown.
In addition, in 2024 the city will develop design alternatives for the West Causeway that will also impact downtown, Boyles told commissioners.
Commissioner Beth Wetzel said the report shows something a person can actually visualize.
“It’s interesting that they did it, and it’s interesting that it’s been hidden away and had to be unearthed,” she said.
She added it “seems to be sort of in line” with the recent Comprehensive Plan meetings the city has held and “seems to fit that level of thinking.”
Commissioner Deborah Toth said she supported the idea of the traffic circle and traffic calming downtown, “and making it a little bit more pedestrian friendly.”
Former City Commissioner Heidi Horvath noted the 2006 report doesn’t consider sea level rise that a second study addressed. It suggested incorporating sidewalks raised by several feet.
“Residential use above retail office is definitely the way to go,” Horvath added.
She said it might be a good idea to have assisted living units above the retail, restaurant and office.
Commissioner John Doctor said he was glad to hear talk about parking.
“That has been one of my issues since coming on the commission a year and a half ago,” Doctor said. “Especially if we are going to take the downtown area higher — vertical — we’re going to need more parking than what we have. That needs to remain a pretty consistent focus as we go through this.”
City commissioners said they will utilize suggestions in the Downtown Redevelopment Plan when considering city projects and are open to developers bringing their plans to the commission based on the study.