Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Heads Up!!! Cove Residents

At last night’s commission meeting after a standing ovation to outgoing Commissioner Pam Militello, her 4 years of hard work getting a consensus by the business owners and area residents for a makeover of the Cove Shopping Center looked like it could be in trouble.

Looks like the new commission may be getting ready to spit in the eyes of the people who took hours and days to work on the plan.

New District 1 Commissioner Joe Miller asked for a special meeting to address the Cove. This is the man who did not attend any of the many workshops already held on the Cove, did not know there was a plan, and had to scramble to come up with something bad to say after he found out about it.

The plan, which was not dictated from city hall or pushed through as a result of a developer’s greed, was crafted by the business owners and residents of the area, is approved by the commission and ready to go to bid.

There is a new restaurant now going in the shopping center, the Station House decided to locate there BECAUSE of the new design, BECAUSE the parking lot was soon to be an attractive draw with a new monument sign attracting shoppers and diners.

Miller’s criticism of the plan is that there is no parking garage; he had trouble parking to go to dinner one Friday night so he thinks the entire plan is no good. He has been seen talking to the architect who failed to win approval for their plan.

That failed plan had a large garage right in front of all the stores, no business owners or residents wanted that. This architect is reportedly very pissed off at losing the contract for the design. I am also told that Miller thinks the businesses should upgrade first and then do the parking lot. With the current look of the parking lot, what incentive is there to upgrade?

This plan progressed through many, many, workshops and meetings which were advertised in the paper and announced at commission meetings, the attendance was excellent (except for Miller who had no clue it was going on):

  • Meetings of area businesses and residents for a concept, the overwhelming majority wanted to retain the small business cozy feel of the Cove, but agreed that a facelift was needed.
  • Using that information a design was developed
  • The design was presented to the residents and businesses at workshops
  • Feedback from the public was used to change the plans
  • Again the designs were presented for feedback at workshops
  • And again the design was changed reflecting the residents and business opinions
  • The feedback resulted in a 2 phase plan
  • The first phase is to upgrade the look of the center, restripe the parking and add landscaping and extra parking for business workers behind the stores, and create a Key West palette of colors and styles for store facades, to be phased in as businesses upgraded.
  • The second involved putting up a parking garage in the north east corner when funds and space is available.

The first phase has funding and is being implemented.

The current commission adopted plan is shovel ready and poised to go out to bid. Plans are ready, drawn by the winning architect. Money and hours of citizen and city staff time has been spent on this plan.

The rational is that by quickly improving the appearance of the city owned parking lot, new business will want relocate there and current businesses will be motivated to upgrade.

Businesses all over the country are now struggling to survive; this attractive setting will give the small business owners in the Cove an edge. The improvements will add to the value of homes in the area as well as increase shopping convenience.

Any change which would retard the implementation of this plan by the new commission would be a slap in the face to the caring residents who trusted that their city would follow through on promises made.

The commission meeting about the Cove will be at 6:00 p.m. on March 31st in the commission meeting room at city hall. I urge you to attend.

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