In his study of east Bartow, Trent Green suggests the east side of Main Street be fashioned into two community gathering areas; also, a lot of fixing up on the east side of U.S. 17 is needed to attract people to town, but to make it look like Bartow.
However, in it there are no thoughts on how to afford such a project and that is something the Community Redevelopment Agency — and perhaps the city commission — will have to figure out.
“The plan itself is a bold gesture,” Green, a USF professor of Architecture and Community Design, said. There is much, he added, that city officials will have to address to make something happen.
Green presented the East End Community Vision Plan of East Bartow to the CRA at its February meeting and without much discussion. He said of the 80-page report, chapters 6 through 12 are perhaps the most important.
In the plan, Green said a gathering or community area can be built near the old hospital at the corner of U.S. 17 and Main Street and another can be built around L.B. Brown Avenue where East Main Street curves. He said last week this is not any effort to take away from the current gathering place around Main Street and Broadway, but instead to build up a part of Main Street that sorely needs it.
“We went from where downtown ends right there at First Avenue (now L.B. Brown Avenue) and beyond,” he said. “We want to recognize where is the best location for community development is, so this is an opportunity to enhance the downtown CRA and it’s a good opportunity for a clear entrance.”
He said that with character disappearing as you go further east on Main Street, it “peters out and nobody knows downtown is really there.”
The study also addresses a problem of the look of the east side of Bartow. He said before anything commercial can happen, that has to be addressed, otherwise no one will be interested in locating to the area.
“The city has to do a lot of work in the marketing of the area and developing opportunities,” he said.
The vacant lots east of U.S. 17 have to be dealt with, either with parks. Existing homes in the area have to be dealt with and cleaned up.
“That has to come first before the commercial area,” Green said.
At the back end of the study are a handful of recommendations he recommends the CRA should do. They have to be prioritized and then some that can be done immediately can be done and others can be dealt with that will take more time.
“Do some things we can do tomorrow and there are some things that are going to take longer. We at least are giving them a direction.”
The five recommendations Green was referring to include:
• East Main Street a downtown gateway of mixed use commercial corridor: This would be an entrance into downtown from U.S. 17. This would be anchored by an expanded Peace River complex adjacent medical-oriented commercial infill development. The entire area would be re-branded as the Bartow Health-Plex.
• U.S. 17 commercial infill and image rebranding: Economic development and roadway enhancement initiative would be aimed at small scale, neighbohood-oriented liner commercial development on commercially zoned site along U.S. 17. Enhancements could include new public safety features such as a gateway park and visual branding elements.
• Vacant property reuse, residential infill and neighborhood stabilization: This would address the high concentration of vacant lots in the neighborhood on the east side of U.S. 17 and their blighting influence and decreased taxable values. This identifies an infill housing strategy that can help reverse the trend in deterioration of the area and increase the market rate and affordable home ownership opportunities.
• Bartow Town Square and L.B. Brown corridor: This could be a mixed-use district with commercial, entertainment and residential uses. It could be anchored by a major open space that functions as a town square and has space for community gatherings and events. It could provide an extension of the Fort Fraser Trail. The southern end of this area could be a visitor center at an expanded Brown House and heritage complex.
• Neighborhood character, infrastructure and special features: There would have to be an ongoing initiative to improve the visual character of the neighborhood’s public realm and enhancing the area’s existing building stock. There could be pocket parks and community gardens that could enhance the area’s look.
Green told the board the study is complete and giving them a chance to familiarize themselves with it he said he will be available for any questions.