Changes on U.S. 19 Might Not Come Soon Enough
Regardless of plans to lure development to the commercial corridor, business owners worry continued changes to the road will drive them out of business.
Kathleen Bromley is torn.
She creates stained glass at The Stained Glass Studio of Clearwater along U.S. 19, and has for about 30 years.
Bromley remembers the last time expansion came to one of the area's most dangerous roads, when the overpasses at Countryside Boulevard and State Road 580 were added. It nearly broke her.
“I’m a very visual business,” Bromley said.
As a Clearwater resident, she wants the faster-flowing road to connect to other parts of the Tampa Bay area.
As a business owner, though, she wonders: “How long will I be able to do this?”
Project Manager Sees U.S. 19 as a Regional Hot Spot
Bromley and about 30 other residents and business owners went to an open house last week to hear what consultants have put together based on nearly 100 comments and ideas on how to shape future land use and development along U.S. 19.
Steve Schukraft, the project manager, gave a presentation for about 40 minutes talking about ideas that include improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections, and promoting more sustainable forms and patterns of development.
“From a regional perspective, it’s got this great potential,” Schukraft said, comparing the corridor to Tampa’s Westshore area and the Feather Sound district of Pinellas. “Think about how they sell this area as a place for investment.”
Clearwater city leaders looked at the preliminary plan — based on ideas collected from the survey that was up from March 5 to May 12 — at their work session meeting Monday.
Another survey was created May 14 seeking ideas. By the end of summer, some of the comments could be drafted into a development plan for the Clearwater City Council to vote on, Schukraft said.
Plan Expected to Shape Next 20 Years
The plan is expected to shape development in the changing area over the next 20 years. Small mom-and-pop businesses, who have struggled for years as pieces of expansion have strained drive-up traffic, will not see much benefit in the short term.
Ben Farrell, whose family owns Lenny’s Restaurant, questioned the demand for future development. He seemed skeptical that even with a change in rules to entice them, that would change the number of developers who can build.
Steve Engelhardt, owner of Hallmark Development, sees the possibility of land use changes as a great opportunity to reshape the corridor.
He said he would be in favor of open zoning, essentially an expansion of mixed use development.
“Anything goes,” Engelhardt said. "Just let it happen."