The city of Clearwater is looking to spruce up the entry way to downtown along Cleveland Street, and there are some bold ideas to transform the space..while also making it safer.
Barbara Sbordon is practicing a new art form at Studio 1212 in Clearwater's downtown gateway neighborhood. She's been coming here about 15 years, and has seen how the area's changed.
"We've seen some improvements, and we're hoping for much more improvement so that we have customers that are not afraid to come down here," Sbordon said.
That's one of the goals of a bold project to re-envision the downtown gateway.
"We anticipate it'll be a better place to do business," said Seth Taylor, Clearwater Community Redevelopment Agency director.
Starting early next year, the Cleveland Street corridor will go from an awkward intersection to a more appealing version of a traditional type crossing. The $7 million project involves taking away two driving lanes between Missouri and Gulf to Bay to make room for separated bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Those are changes studies have shown won't have a big impact on the low traffic volume here, but will improve safety.
"The way that the street is currently engineered it's really designed for automobiles. It's not a safe environment for children, elderly, or bicyclists. We're looking to transform that so that this will be a terrific environment for everyone," said Taylor.
The plans even call for a festival space to host events and one day, a "mercado" for local vendors.
"Go for it Clearwater! I've been waiting for this for 10 years!" said Bullet Ferrin, owner of Hands on Bicycles.
Ferrin ides his bike to downtown often from his home and business nearby. In his words, he just hopes the sprucing up of the street goes beyond putting chocolate frosting on a less-than-perfect cake.
"This is the hood, I guess for Clearwater. We do have a lot of prostitution and drug dealing. So if they'd clear that problem up, you'd get more businesses opening up and it'd be like a win-win all the way around," said Ferrin.
Ferrin and others in the gateway are optimistic the changes the city's planning will help weed out those issues, and allow the area's rebirth continue..
If you want to learn more about the project, the city will have a presentation about it Wednesday, May 11.
It starts at 6 p.m. at TSM Kitchen & Bar, 1230 Cleveland Street.