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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 5 years ago

Ormond's New Streetscape: Mixed Reviews So Far

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The city has been working to revitalize the Granada Boulevard streetscape.

BY PAULA BUCK | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Eagerly anticipating the 2014 completion of Granada Boulevard’s new streetscape, merchants agree that the aesthetic improvements will be delightful. Rod Gammon Jr., owner of Rod’s Carpet, Tile and Wood, looks forward especially to the “beautiful palm trees and decorative lighting” in the median. Gammon, whose father founded the carpet business in 1944, is vitally interested in the success of the project: “I’ve been in this shop on this street for 44 years. I love being here, and I want everything to be even better.”

Pauline Orlowski and Sandi Van Epps, a mother-daughter team, opened The Ball of Yarn in 2011. “The street is going to be fabulous, especially when the phone and electrical wires are moved underground,” Van Epps said. Orlowski added an enthusiastic echo: “Yes, it will!”

Margaret Shrewsbury, proprietor of Cupcakes by the Sea, is a newcomer. Her shop opened just last year. “Impressed with the visual upgrades on the boulevard,” she expects invigorating changes. She hopes, for example, that shop owners will communicate more effectively about how to attract interest. “In Virginia, downtowns often host monthly block parties after hours. They sometimes serve wine, feature live music, and close the main street for a few hours, creating a safe, cozy atmosphere. I don’t know if that would work on this busy thoroughfare, but we could still brainstorm about ways to increase foot traffic.”

One development that is likely to boost pedestrian activity is the recent relocation of The Ormond Beach Farmers’ Market. It has moved from the Rockefeller Gardens, on the east side of the Halifax River, to the west side. The new address is 22 Beach St., City Hall Plaza. Plenty of free parking is available behind City Hall or across Beach Street at the Cassen Riverfront Park. Granada Boulevard merchants anticipate that market customers will stroll by the charming shops between Beach Street and Washington Boulevard, within easy walking distance of City Hall, and discover what’s happening on the other side of the river.

While the merchants agree that the creation of the streetscape is a positive development overall, they have several concerns. They all noted the need for increased communication among the city, the project planners, the contractors, the merchants and residents in general. Gammon suggests monthly updates from officials and encourages any concerned citizens to attend City Commission meetings or to write to the commissioners, local papers or to Julia Truilo, Ormond Main Street executive director.

Noting that they expected some delay and disruption during the reconstruction, the shop owners pointed out several unanticipated problems. Shrewsbury and Gammon, for example, objected to the long gap between the installation of brick crosswalks and the completion of paving. Driving over those bricks was “spine-jolting,” Shrewsbury noted. “We’re glad that part is over,” Gammon agreed.

While that issue has been resolved, several more problems remain. Limited parking, especially on the north side of the street, has cut down on the number of “impulse buyers” Shrewsbury contends. She suggests that the planners consider better signage showing how to get from Granada to New Britain Street, which runs behind the shops on the north side. Parking is free and adequate, but drivers would be likely to miss the north turn onto Beach Street or onto Ridgewood if they did not know where to look.

Gammon objects to the placement of other traffic signs, one of which obstructs the view of his store’s marquee for eastbound drivers. He has suggested moving signs to the posts supporting traffic lights.

Traffic control is troublesome. Gammon says the light at the intersection of Granada and Ridgewood needs turn arrows. “I’ve watched cars wait through two or three lights — not good for business or safety. People get frustrated, and that’s a real bad thing.”

Perhaps even more important is the placement of several traffic-calming islands on both sides of the street. “They’re just not working, and they could cause accidents,” Gammon says. “Just look at all the tire marks on the curbing. Cars barely squeeze through those narrow places. I think they are downright dangerous.” In addition to that problem, the islands almost totally obstruct the bike path, a feature originally considered a marked improvement. A cyclist who preferred to remain anonymous strongly agreed: “My bike and I could not possibly fit between a car and the ‘bump.’”

Part of the plan to slow traffic, the islands are not the only ineffective element in that effort, according to Shrewsbury: “Cars just fly over that bridge. They do not slow down when they reach Beach Street. The city should reduce the speed limit to 15 mph.”

Despite these difficulties, all four of the merchants support the new streetscape. Very much in tune with the spirit of improvement, they are renovating their own shops or, in one case, benefitting from larger renovations. The new art deco façade in the Granada Crossings Building, housing The Ball of Yarn and other businesses, won The Business Beautification Award from the Ormond Chamber of Commerce this year.

Van Epps summed it up: “Yes, it has been a long process, and we do need better communication. But when it’s finished, it’s going to be amazing down here — like the real old Florida.”

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