Local News

Avon Park looks to scale back gateway plans

AVON PARK - The plans for gateway designs at the east and west end of the Main Street Mall aim to give motorists a "sense of arrival" to the City of Charm, but the CRA Board is looking at less expensive options. The Community Redevelopment Agency Board didn't question the gateway design, which includes monument structures at each end of the mall, but took a close look at the $574,000 cost to complete the entire project. Two representatives from Tindale-Oliver & Associates of Orlando, presented their design plan at Monday's CRA meeting. The planners noted that the east and west gateway urban design gives motorists a "sense of arrival" and also creates recreational amenities. The western gateway, with up-lighted palm trees and a 20-foot tall by 15-foot wide monumental arch, would be easily seen by motorists on U.S. 27.
The plans for the gateway and about one block on each end of the mall include: gateway plazas, a meandering sidewalk, benches, landscaping, lighting and irrigation. One of the planners noted that a lot has been done on the mall over the years and there needs to be a "thread to pull it together" like it had been planned that way all along. The Tindale-Oliver planners offered estimated costs with a phase approach. The western gateway "phase one" would cost $268,000 with a total cost of $310,000. The eastern gateway "phase one" would cost $157,000 with a total cost of $264,000. Costs of just the arch monument and a 13-foot, monumental sign, are $100,000 and $85,000, respectively. The planners said for $55,000 they will produce construction design documents and provide services for project permitting, bid support and construction administration. CRA Board Member Parke Sutherland questioned the need for the design documents as he believed some parts of the design such as the sidewalks could be built by city staff. He noted that with the large reduction in city property taxes, the Main Street CRA will have a much lower level of funding. CRA Chairman Sharon Schuler called the plan a "wonderful concept." The CRA board discussed doing only the two monument signs and their bases. CRA Member Terry Heston said Tuesday the CRA can do the monuments, but there is no need for a landscaping plan because the work can be done by the city or by a contractor. "It's an awful lot of money to pay," he said. "We ought to do it in stages; we ought to do the monuments first." The planners did a good job, but the town cannot afford to do it all, Heston said. Administrative Services Director Maria Sutherland said Tuesday the monument signs presented Monday night were much larger than those originally proposed by the planners. The desire of the board was to have a monument sign, not a "Taj Mahal sign," she said. Numerous plans have been drafted for the mall in the past, Sutherland noted. Work was done on three sections of the mall with grant funding based on a master plan from about five years ago. This new plan is not a "done deal," she said. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826