The 49th Street South business corridor in Gulfport will be getting a new historical park and destination location for events and entertainment as council members approved the Trolley Market Square project at their meeting on Tuesday, April 17.
“It’s a sizable commitment by this city council,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
The project, which is also known as the Tangerine Greenway Infrastructure Improvements Project, has been about six years in the making, he said.
The land area is part of a former trolley line that once ran between the cities of St. Petersburg and Gulfport. Tangerine Greenway is centrally located between 18th and 19th Avenues South with 49th Street on its east side and 54th Street to the west. Tangerine Avenue South immediately borders the park’s north and south boundaries.
Preliminary work has included applications for grant funding. City documentation says it has been approved for $300,000 from the national Community Development Block Grant program but was denied $200,000 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that would have assisted with environmental remediation efforts that are a part of the project.
The city has also committed $200,000 from its own budget for the project.
In collaboration with a geologist from Cardno of Clearwater, the city’s engineering firm of record, and as a result of the project’s total projected budget being reduced from $700,00 to $500,000, a new and lower-cost plan for viable environmental remediation efforts was presented. The plan was unanimously approved by the council.
In the easternmost quarter of the project’s site, studies have found petroleum contamination located from about six inches to three feet below the land’s surface as a result of historical uses on the property, said Rick Hagberg, a geologist and environmental manager for Cardno.
The new remediation plan has been approved by the FDEP and will integrate into the proposed site design to address environmental concerns and to create a type of natural stadium seating effect, said Hagberg. Storm drainage issues will also be improved.
Essentially, some soil will be removed and replaced with clean fill. Then the ground will be capped with hard material such as pavers, concrete or asphalt, he said.
When finished, a focal point of the park will be the city’s popular trolley permanently mounted to a stylized track area that will most likely be made of pavers, said O’Reilly. In addition to its historical value, the trolley will also serve as a concessions stand.
If the city’s old trolley is used for the project, a newer one could be obtained for the city’s event transportation needs, said O’Reilly.
Two Key Business Permits Approved
The McDonald’s Corporation applied for and was approved for a major construction reconfiguration plan at its Gulfport restaurant that is equipped with one drive-through lane located at 5111 Gulfport Blvd. S.
At the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019, the existing 1984 structure will be razed and replaced with a new building and parking lot designed to be more efficient, said Braulio Grajales of High Point Engineering in Tampa. The modern plan will include more square footage in the building, two drive-through service lanes to speed up service and a parking lot entrance and exit system that will reduce or eliminate related traffic congestion on Gulfport Boulevard.
Once the project begins, it will take about 75 days to complete, said Grajales.
The council also approved a mixed-use application for Leta Woloshuk to create a second location for her established Gulfport-based therapeutic massage business.
The original location for Art of Massage began 12 years ago in the Courtyard business area, located just off Beach Boulevard, said owner Woloshuk. The second location will be at 5110 Tangerine Avenue South.
“We’re expanding,” she said. “The Tangerine Greenway location will open just as soon as we can get the builders to build it.”
City’s Phone App Ready for Launch
In a collaborative effort primarily between the city’s Code Enforcement and Public Works departments, a new mobile app will make it easier for Gulfport residents to report and track requests for action on issues like code enforcement violations or problems with flooding, potholes, tree limbs, sanitation or street signs, said Dave Mather, director of information technology.
With the new app, people will also be able to pay their utility bill or check the availability of event spaces like the Library, the Senior Center, beach pavilions or the Casino, said Mather.
“To schedule an event, you’ll still need to talk to someone, but with the app you’ll be able to get the ball rolling,” he said. The electronic tool will require a free login account.
The app has been in development for over a year. The release of the final version will be on Thursday, April 19 and it will take up to a week to become available for download through iPhone and Android device application sources, said Mather.
The new tool will also allow city staff to set up special short alerts for topics like a hurricane’s status and sandbag availability.
Once the app becomes available, it can be modified as needed with new information like the private sewer lateral grant program, said Mather.
Citywide Plastic Straw Ban Discussed
Councilmember Michael Fridovich and a Stetson University College of Law student first broached the topic of a citywide ban of single-use plastic straws during the council’s April 3 meeting. Councilmembers then directed city staff to draft a resolution for later discussion.
During the April 17 meeting, councilmembers could not agree on the need for a formal ban or the method for enforcement, including the possibility of a monetary fine for businesses for non-compliance.
The first version of a local draft ordinance draws from similar legal documentation in use in Fort Meyers Beach and Marco Island, said Fridovich.
After a robust and lengthy exchange, councilmembers and the city manager agreed to canvass local business owners to see how many would be in favor of a voluntary ban.
Two local restaurant managers and owners who were in the audience and who are also Gulfport residents, said they were in favor of a ban and have already stopped offering single-use plastic straws in their establishments.
Henderson directed that the discussion would continue at the May 15 meeting.
National Recognition Nomination
“VETSports is a national wounded warrior and veteran’s support organization,” said Councilmember Dan Lietke. “They’ve been holding events in Gulfport for about seven years.”
Last week, VETSports announced their nominees for their annual awards to be held at a gala on May 19 in Washington, D.C.
According to the VETSports website, each year people “who have gone above and beyond to carry out and support the mission” are nominated for various categories of recognition including “Supporter of the Year.”
Liedtke announced that Mayor Sam Henderson and the city of Gulfport are among those who have been nominated for the recognition.
“That’s very nice that they’re recognizing me with the city, but this has all been your baby from the beginning and I hope they recognize that as well,” said Henderson to Liedtke.
The city’s veteran-related events over the years have also been a group effort involving the city manager along with staff from leisure services, police and fire, said Henderson.
“We’re all just happy that we are all able to support our veterans,” said Liedtke.