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Changes on U.S. 19 Might Not Come Soon Enough

Regardless of plans to lure development to the commercial corridor, business owners worry continued changes to the road will drive them out of business.

Kathleen Bromley is torn.

She creates stained glass at along U.S. 19, and has for about 30 years.

Bromley remembers the last time expansion came to one of the area's most dangerous roads, when the overpasses at Countryside Boulevard and State Road 580 were added. It nearly broke her.

“I’m a very visual business,” Bromley said.

As a Clearwater resident, she wants the faster-flowing road to connect to other parts of the Tampa Bay area.

As a business owner, though, she wonders: “How long will I be able to do this?”

Project Manager Sees U.S. 19 as a Regional Hot Spot

Bromley and about 30 other residents and business owners went to an open house last week to hear what consultants have put together based on nearly 100 comments and ideas on how to shape future land use and development along U.S. 19.

Steve Schukraft, the project manager, gave a presentation for about 40 minutes talking about ideas that include improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections, and promoting more sustainable forms and patterns of development.

“From a regional perspective, it’s got this great potential,” Schukraft said, comparing the corridor to Tampa’s Westshore area and the Feather Sound district of Pinellas. “Think about how they sell this area as a place for investment.”

City leaders will see the preliminary plan — based on ideas collected from the survey that was up from March 5 to May 12 — at their work session meeting Monday. 

Another survey was created May 14 seeking ideas. By the end of summer, some of the comments could be drafted into a development plan for the City Council to vote on, Schukraft said.

Plan Expected to Shape Next 20 Years

The plan is expected to shape development in the changing area over the next 20 years. Small mom-and-pop businesses, who have struggled for years as pieces of expansion have strained drive-up traffic, will not see much benefit in the short term. 

Ben Farrell, whose family owns , questioned the demand for future development. He seemed skeptical that even with a change in rules to entice them, that would change the number of developers who can build.

Steve Engelhardt, owner of Hallmark Development, sees the possibility of land use changes as a great opportunity to reshape the corridor.

He said he would be in favor of open zoning, essentially an expansion of mixed use development.

“Anything goes,” Engelhardt said. "Just let it happen."

Engelhardt, who also was involved in Clearwater’s Business Task Force, sees relaxing the rules as a way to lure development to Clearwater that might happen elsewhere. 

“There’s so much vacant land ... it’s unbelievable,” Engelhardt said. "It could be a lot of things."

D Turner June 04, 2012 at 11:33 AM
If US 19 south of Gulf to Bay is to be used as a major road connecting North and South, then businesses shouldn't be there because their presence creates stop and go traffic patterns. People looking for a business entrance are slowing traffic, people leaving businesses are cutting into traffic. Keep it as a major road to get from North to South and help relocate the businesses.
Joe June 04, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Yeah, but where would all these businesses go. Very few places in Clearwater have the visibility of U.S. 19. IMO they are killing one of the primary retail districts in CLWR. No other area gets the exposure to people that otherwise may never set foot in CLWR. In other cities U.S. 19 is a retail draw to anyone who passes by. In ClWR U.S. 19 is used to pass CLWR by. We need to let drivers know there is something here besides a beach.
Dan Barker June 04, 2012 at 03:47 PM
I will always go to Traget and Lowes even if it takes me an extra 15 minutes.
Fred Allen June 04, 2012 at 08:29 PM
It's time Clearwater let business prosper. It seems they do their best to make sure that a new business does NOT succeed. I think Clearwater has many stupid anti business rules that we can do without. But, when the City want's to do something the rules don't matter. Redevelopement is not working....let's preserve the developement that we have and encourage most any business that wants to try to make it here. . We don't want another Palm Beach .....we want Clearwater. It takes more than restaurants with little side walk areas. As for 19, it should have been an expressway 50 years ago.
joe June 10, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I don't think they really need to screw up any more businesses. http://jokeofthedayblog.blogspot.com

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