SOUTH PASADENA - Despite the vocal criticisms from a new mayor, the city may soon start sprucing up Pasadena Avenue.
A plan to dramatically revamp the notoriously dangerous and blighted road connecting St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach is moving forward, minus the controversial suggestion of narrowing the lanes of the busy street and despite the complaints of Mayor Dan Calabria, who fought it during his campaign.
City commissioners discussed the revamped plan at a Tuesday workshop. With the so-called "lane dieting" provision off the table that would have reduced the number of lanes on much of the road from six to four lanes, the discussion focused on weighing alternatives for calming traffic. Calabria, though, still opposes the plan, in part because changes in height and density, though as-yet unspecified, are still on the table.
"As long as the so-called redevelopment plan is designed for developers, despite resident's opposition . I will continue to oppose the plan," Calabria wrote in an email Tuesday.
Commissioners in favor of the plan say the plan can revitalize the city's economy with beautification efforts as well as possible tweaks to the building code, which may include increased height and density limits.
"Our consensus is to go ahead and look at things that we can do," said Commissioner Max Elson. "The plan is beautification of the avenue, and it involves a lot of things. Some of them are major, like the burying of the cables and lines. But the rest of it, a lot of it's cosmetic."
The degree to which height and density limits would change has yet to be determined. Because the commission doesn't hold regular meetings during the summer, those specifics likely won't be hashed out until late summer or early fall. Supporters hope the changes will help the city attract businesses akin to Ted Peters' Famous Smoked Fish and Leverock's Seafood, both well-known restaurants that bring people to the town. They're hoping these businesses, coupled with mixed-use development, will make the city an attractive, walkable place for residents and locals.
That's a tall order for a city whose main drag is characterized by vacant lots and storefronts - one that's notoriously unsafe for pedestrians. Supporters of the plan, though, remain confident.
"I'm of the belief that we have good legacy companies, legacy businesses in our city, and I'm ready to start a new legacy," said Commissioner Gail Neidenger.
Calabria, though, thinks attracting a big box retailer will do the trick. For months, he has been trying to get Wal-Mart to set up a Neighborhood Market at Gulfport Boulevard and Pasadena Avenue in an anchor space left vacant when Publix moved across the road in 2008.
He has a list of other suggestions he said is a compilation of ideas put forth by residents and said he'd change his mind about the plan if it incorporates them. The list includes reducing bus cutaways, widening the road by two feet on each side and replacing the native cabbage palms in the medians, which Calabria considers "ugly," with date palms.
He said he'd also like to see the city consider hiring a different consultant to help draft the new plan by opening up the job to other bidders.
Calabria and his counterparts have long agreed on one of the proposal's most expensive components, which is burying utility cables along the corridor.