Gateways, US 1 among Sebastian redevelopment priorities

SEBASTIAN – Sebastian city leaders and residents say that making improvements to US 1 and sprucing up the entry points into the city are among their top priorities for redevelopment spending.

The city has $600,000 in unspoken for redevelopment funds and more than $5 million worth of projects it would like to eventually get done.

The two top projects discussed at a workshop Wednesday evening between the Sebastian Community Redevelopment Agency, which is also the City Council, and members of the public could benefit the businesses along US 1 and help create a sense of place and welcome, they said.

“Your city is dying in an economic sense,” said Downtown Sebastian business owner Lisanne Monier-Robinson. She urged the redevelopment agency to not get bogged down in bureaucracy and instead move quickly on making small changes that would help the businesses.

She has suggested the city install bump outs on the corners of US 1 to better define on-street parking. Such a change could help justify a slower speed limit along US 1, which the Florida Department of Transportation would have to determine.

Bump outs are extended curbs, sometimes landscaped, that make the street look narrower than it is, which helps to slow traffic, according to the FDOT.

City Manager Al Minner has already issued a $2,000 work order to an engineering firm to design the bump outs on US 1. Once that work is done, he said he’d make a presentation to the city council for direction. By then, the city should know a true cost for the project.

Along with redefining on-street parking to make it easier for motorists to see where they can park for the downtown businesses, the redevelopment agency discussed improving the entry points into the downtown district.

Sebastian businessman Damien Gilliams told the agency that they need to think of the downtown redevelopment area as a community subdivision – would someone be willing to buy a home in that “subdivision” without the basic necessities, without feeling welcomed?

“Anything you do has to have a welcome mat,” said Collier Club developer Chuck Mechling.

He made a suggestion that the city install pelican statues or monuments at the entryways as a way to brand the city – known for Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The monuments – or whatever else the city leaders decide for the gateways into the city – would act as a visual cue that motorists have arrived, he said.

Minner said he could touch base with the engineering firms the city has on retainer to sketch out a few ideas for the gateways to get the ball rolling.

Before any work could be done on the entry points, however, the city would plan to have workshops and solicit public input.

The redevelopment agency also decided during the workshop that it is time to revisit the redevelopment master plan, noting that it should have been years ago. The plan was to be updated every three to five years – it’s been 10.

“It was never meant to be fixed in stone,” Community Redevelopment Agency member Don Wright said.

His fellow agency members agreed that the plan should be reviewed.

Minner said he would contact the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to see if the agency would be willing to assist in the review process as it had when the plan was first crafted.

After the workshop, Minner said he expects to report back to the redevelopment agency soon on the planning council’s interest.

In the meantime, reviewing the master plan is not expected to hold up work on the US 1 improvements or soliciting ideas on the gateways, he said.

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