The city of Gulfport is looking forward to completing an open green space improvement project that has been about six years in the making, said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
What is being called Trolley Market Square will be the eastern most portion of the Tangerine Greenway Infrastructure Improvement Project. When completed, it will extend from 49th Street South to about one-half block west to the edge of the tree line, beyond which is the swale that forms the drainage portion of the area.
“It’s designed to catch the street runoff from summer rain storms and it works,” said O’Reilly. The drainage portion was previously completed with funding from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
As part of the Greenway’s evolution process, from $60,00 to $70,000 was used from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Grant Funding program to assess the eastern most area of land, said O’Reilly.
“That’s where the idea came from to reuse the area,” he said. “This is why it’s appealing to the Community Development Block Grant Program. We’re reusing an area that requires some soil remediation. That’s the exciting part about it.”
The Trolley Market Square project will be completed in two phases.
Phase one will involve environmental remediation and final site design.
Preliminary site studies revealed petroleum contamination located from about six inches to three feet below the land’s surface as a result of historical uses on the property, according to Rick Hagberg, a geologist and environmental manager for Cardno of Clearwater, the city’s engineering firm of record.
Up until 1949, a trolley line ran from downtown St. Petersburg to Gulfport, entering the city at Tangerine Greenway next to 49th Street South. That’s the area of highest soil contamination. The trolley line then headed west to 55th Street South, turned south and followed Beach Boulevard to the Gulfport Casino located on the shore of Boca Ciega Bay.
By September 30, $300,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds from Pinellas County will be used to fund soil clean up and regrading efforts to further address drainage issues in the area, said O’Reilly. If needed, $200,000 of city funding can carry over past that date.
“The environmental aspect of the project should be substantially completed by that date,” he said. Cardno is also expected to have the final site design completed by then.
The environmental aspect is the biggest part of the whole project, said O’Reilly. “When we get the soil cleaned up and put back, we hope to create a clean canvas for when we do the construction phase. It’s the biggest part because of the level of work that needs to get done.”
Phase two will involve construction. Cardno’s final design plan, once approved by city council, will be put out for bid.
Then, “construction shouldn’t take that much longer because it’s a lot of flat work, like laying brick pavers and installing items like shade sails, sidewalks, landscaping and a performance stage located in the northwest corner of the square,” said O’Reilly. “My hope is to have this whole project done by the end of the year.”
The brick pavers will be earth tones in color, he said.
On May 4, O’Reilly will be meeting with staff from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to discuss several topics, including replacement of the current trolley being used by the city. The city leases it from the PSTA on an annual basis.
“The updated replacement vehicle would probably look like the Suncoast Beach Trolley” that runs from St. Pete Beach to downtown Clearwater, said O’Reilly. For a visual, visit bestfloridabeaches.org/florida-trolley.
He hopes the PSTA will allow Gulfport to use the older, aging trolley as a stationary historical showcase piece in Trolley Market Square. Before placement, it would go through remodeling and modification to become a type of refreshment stand during events.
“If that doesn’t work, then we’ll go out to an after-market source to possibly purchase a trolley,” said O’Reilly. The city has set aside about $100,000 in the 2018-2019 budget to acquire a used trolley for the square project.