The Churchwell Road CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) is pretty much done. They were painting the yellow stripes last week and painting the 127 space public parking lot yesterday. The ribbon cutting is on April 16, 2008 at 10:30 am on the new Churchwell Bridge, unless it rains, in which case it will be under a tent in the new parking lot close to Front Beach Road. More after the break.
The Front Beach Road CRA, or Community Redevelopment Area is moving ahead and on schedule. The current projects underway are the Churchwell Road rebuild and the widening of Beckrich Road.
The Churchwell Road improvements included rebuilding of the bridge, widening the road and adding 127 public parking spaces on the north side of Front Beach Road to provide parking for the public beach access point. Construction began in April 2007 and is on schedule to be completed early spring this year with the ribbon cutting to be sometime in March.
The Front Beach Road CRA and other CRA projects is moving along. I was out and about and snapped off some photos of the progress on Beckrich and Churchwell.
On the CRA website, www.PCBonTheMove.com they’ve added some before and after pictures of what Front Beach Road will look like when all is done.
Also, it looks like they are moving dirt where the multi-modal station will go on North Thomas Drive.
This past week, I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Ben Faust, the Vice President of DRMP, the consultant firm that is handling all aspects of the Front Beach Road CRA or Community Redevelopment Area. The goal of the CRA is to upgrade the infrastructure and beautify our area using monies leveraged from the increased development over the last several years.
Currently there are two projects underway with several more on the board to begin soon. The first to be started was the Churchwell Drive project. The project began in April and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2008, although I was told that they are ahead of schedule. This particular project was started first, not because of priority, but because the state had funds for the bridge replacement now. Rather than wait and risk those funds being reallocated elsewhere, the city agreed to begin the project first. Project details:
- Widen existing roadway
- Relocate the overhead utilities underground
- Build a parking area for the nearby beach access point – 127 spaces
- Build sidewalks and bike lanes
- Replace old bridge (paid for by FDOT)
The Beckrich Road project began at the beginning of September with an estimated completion time of 22 months, set to end summer of 2009. Project details:
- All overhead utilities relocated underground
- Roadway widened to four lanes
- Construction of bike lanes and sidewalks
- Center landscaped median
- Landscaping on either side of the roadway
Those of you that are familiar with Beckrich know that this will be a huge improvement over the existing two lane traffic ridden roadway.
One of the cool things about the CRA, is that every project involves the relocating of all overhead utilities underground. Many don’t realize this, but this comes at an extraordinary cost and logistical preparation. Involved is not just moving, but rebuilding and then switching so as not to interrupt service. Coming from Plano, TX, I was not used to seeing power lines everywhere, but here, they are a constant interruption of the beautiful views to be had all along our beaches. Underground utilities will add big time value to our area and make the Front Beach Road experience all the more enjoyable.
All along Front Beach Road, many of the roadways will have landscaped center medians, dedicated bike lanes, sidewalks, street lighting and a dedicated tram lane on both sides.
The next project on the drawing board will be the north Thomas Drive area. The north Thomas Drive area is defined as the area from the intersection of Front Beach Road, Middle Beach Road, and Thomas Drive (where the Ripley’s Believe it or Not ship is) to the intersection of Thomas Drive and Joan Avenue (where Wendy’s is). Currently this is two lanes and is considered a “restricted roadway” and will be four-laned as part of the CRA.
Next will come the Front Beach Road area from Walmart to Beckrich Road, and then the south Thomas Drive area. The south Thomas Drive area consists of the roadway from the Circle K (in between The Shores of Panama and Laketown Wharf) past Boardwalk to the stop-sign just before Club LaVela.
Currently there is a proposed tram station to go in on the north Thomas Drive roadway, across from Ripley’s. The land has been aquired, but funding will not be coming from the north Thomas Drive CRA allotment, nor has the station been approved with finalized plans. There are currently conceptual ideas on the drawing board with more definitive information to come out in the next 6 to 8 weeks.
There is actually quite a bit of information at PCBOnTheMove.com.
Also, below is a link to the PowerPoint presentation given at the Beach Chamber Event a couple of months ago, including project specific details with imagery and financial facts. Also, there is a link to the Project Design Manual that includes specifics on the street-scape design with pictures of materials to be used and street design concepts.
This month’s Friday at the Beach was held at the Edgewater Beach Resort yesterday and featured guest speakers Ben Faust from DRMP and Panama City Beach Planning Director Mel Leonard. The topic was the highly anticipated Front Beach Road CRA and details and updates.
CRA is short for Community Redevelopment Area and was created a couple of years ago because of the sprawling growth and development and concerns over whether the infrastructure in place could handle the automobile and pedestrian traffic in addition to the increase in strain to existing utilities infrastructure. The goal of the CRA is to not only increase the workability and viability of the infrastructure, but also to beautify the area and make it more pedestrian friendly and “walkable”.
The first project to begin as part of the CRA is Churchwell Drive, by the post office on the beach. Faust said that this was the first, not because of priority, but because the FDOT funds were ready for that one, so they decided to begin. Included in this section of the CRA will be landscaping, underground utilities and 127 parking spaces for the public beach access. I could be wrong on this date, but scheduled completion is in the summer of 2008.
The official “ground-breaking” for the Beckrich Road CRA will be on September 12, 2007 with approximately a 22 month construction time. I don’t have details as to what exactly this will involve, but I plan to stop by the DRMP office in the next couple of weeks. Currently they are working on getting some of the Edgewater property ready for these improvements.
In addition to the parcel purchased on Thomas Drive, the city is negotiating and preparing to purchase 8 other parcels on this section of Thomas Drive to help improve and prepare for the Multi modal Tram Station to go on the large parcel the link shows you above. They are also planning on having a separate Station on the west end of Panama City Beach around the Highway 79 area on the City Hall Campus. Faust mentioned that in the designing of the East End Multi modal Station, that they recognize that it needs to be more than just a tram station, it needs to be a place where people will want to gather and it has got to offer amenities that people will use and enjoy in addition to being beautiful.
The actual Front Beach Road planning is done with approval for the first phase to go before the city next month. The “typical” Front Beach Road layout will the the 100′ width streetscape example with a Tram pullout lane, pedestrian walkways and bike paths on either side of the road way. Although, now that I think about it, I don’t know that most of the roadway will be like the 66′ wide example, with the 100′ wide example representing what the roadway will look like periodically at Tram stops.
The end result will feature walkways all along Front Beach Road, landscaping to accentuate the roadways and beautify the pedestrian experience and bike and transit lanes so that people will be able to move up and down the beach without their cars, I can’t wait.
For updates visit PCBOnTheMove.com
Pictures from the event.
As some of you may know, there is a CRA (community redevelopment area) for all of Front Beach Road. This was created to funnel some of the tax money from all the new condos into improving the infrastructure. Planned is a complete reworking of all of Front Beach Road, along with many of the feeder streets as well. The vision seems awesome and will certainly be beautiful when it is done. I’m just wondering when it WILL be done.
I’ve seen little activity other than the Churchwell Drive improvements. I think the answer may be that they will start on another project when they complete Churchwell Drive, but I don’t understand why that can’t start other projects more immediately. If someone has some insight to this, or more information, that would be great.
PCBOnTheMove.com seems to have some pretty good information, but it is a little vague. I sent an email to email@example.com asking for more specifics on project information, including projected start and end dates. I got no response last time I sent them an email, so hopefully they’ll respond this time.
The plans for the redevelopment of Front Beach Road include an expansion of the road way to a combination of 66′ wide and 100′ wide road ways with three lanes and a dedicated tram/bike lane on each side. There is a planned multi-modal tram station proposed at the east end of Front Beach Road, just down from Walmart.
At the web site, there is a short movie showing and explaining what the new Front Beach Road will be like. All in all, it is going to be a great thing, I’m just a little impatient, and want it now.