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The team of planners, architects and economists hired by the state DOT to reimagine South Florida Avenue presented renderings Friday night illustrating some of their ideas for redevelopment in Dixieland and downtown. See a few of the images below and videos covering almost all of the nearly-two-hour presentation.

Abandoning my usual journalistic reserve for a moment, let me say it was enlightening to see the community where I’ve lived and worked for 34 years through the eyes of observant outside professionals who have embedded themselves here and talked with scores of residents and business owners. They saw vast parking lots I’ve taken for granted and envisioned imaginative mixed-use urban development.

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While the central focus is the future of Florida Avenue between Ariana Street and Pine Street, the overall goal is pointing toward opportunities for economic growth in the 1.4-mile corridor.

The slideshow that was presented Friday night at the Polk Museum of Art is expected to be posted next week at the project website.

Here are a few of the key images:

Florida Avenue: wide sidewalks
When the design team held a workshop for public comments last Saturday, they heard wide support for putting South Florida Avenue on a road diet: reducing it from the current five lanes to three – two travel lanes and a turn lane. Here’s one idea of what that would look like if sidewalks were added and shade trees placed between the road and pedestrians.

Since there are few safe places to cross Florida Avenue in Dixieland, the planners recommend using a visual cue like bricks to signal the presence of pedestrians to drivers.


onstreetparking
At last Saturday’s workshop, comments were divided on whether on-street parking should be added. This image shows what on-street parking might look like in the Dixieland Village block north of Patterson Street. If parking were added, it would be only on select streets, the planners noted.


polktheatre
One goal would be to make South Florida Avenue more pedestrian friendly in the downtown area with wider, shady sidewalks. This scheme would lessen the need for single-file walking between the Polk Theatre and the parking lot a half-block to the north.


southentry
The planners envision marked gateways into the corridor where the street narrows. Here’s a possible design for the south gateway at Ariana Street looking north. Walgreen’s is at the left.


northentry
This illustration imagines new development around the north gateway at Pine Street. At left, the state parking lot at Pine and Florida is given a look more in line with classic local architecture. Lake Wire is at the upper right.


tuckers
The vacant lot at Belmar and Florida that now features the multi-c0lor Dixieland sign is envisioned as a three-story, multi-use building. Petals the Flower Shoppe, seen at left, was praised by the planners as an imaginative adaptive use of an older building.


hillcrest
The buildings at left show how urban design could replace a large parking lot fronting Florida Avenue and Hillcrest Street at the current Waller Plaza, a former A&P supermarket. Parking would move to the rear of the buildings, but would have to be designed in a way that didn’t interfere with the houses across the street on Missouri, the planners said.

At the beginning of the meeting, design team leader Dana Little of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council outlined the main findings from last Saturday’s workshop that guided this week’s planning:

  • Provide gateways at each end of the corridor.
  • Add shade trees to sidewalks.
  • Explore ways to implement a road diet.
  • Add green spaces.
  • Improve drainage.
  • Enhance alleys.
  • Increase bikesharing (though not necessarily bike lanes on Florida Avenue).
  • Enhance redevelopment opportunities through mixed-use development.
  • Encourage the walking school bus program.
  • Explore on-street parking – although many people were solidly against it.
  • Consolidate curb cuts.
  • Protect the historic character of nearby neighborhoods.
  • Add decorative lighting.
  • Improve bus shelters and other transit infrastructure.
  • Slow down traffic.
  • Safety should be primary.

For more details, watch the videos below that were broadcast live by lkldnow during the presentation. Speakers and topics in the first video (time stamps are approximate) include:

  • 0:00 – Welcomes by Pat Steed, director of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, and Billy Hattaway, Florida Department of Transportation District 1 secretary.
  • 2:00 – Overview by Dana Little
  • 14:30 – Economic review by Tom Moriarty and Tom Lavash
  • 46:20 – Plan overview and redevelopment opportunities by Dana Little

The second video includes:

  • 0:00 – Continuation of redevelopment opportunities
  • 4:00 – Gateways to the corridor
  • 11:40 – South Florida Avenue
  • 24:00 – Alleys and parking
  • 32:00 – Road diet options
  • 41:00 – Audience questions

N

NEXT STEPS

The design team will continue gathering data to create a comprehensive plan that looks at each property along the corridor, Little said. After they further develop their ideas, a draft report should be available in August. By the fall, a plan should be presented to city officials, who presumably would hold public forums to debate and take action.

Photos shared on social media:

If you’re Facebook friends with Ron Tomlin, check this Facebook post for some interesting discussion and dissenting opinions.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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