In the 1970’s, the nationwide trend to exit traditional downtown areas for developing suburbs left city centers in peril of blight and abandonment. Dunedin felt the effects of this trend and in 1987 the Dunedin City Commission created the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to guide private and public initiatives for economic development, improved physical characteristics, investment in downtown and improved quality of life for residents. Then as now we rethink how we want our city to look and feel to live in, and how we can attract visitors to enjoy our city. There are some local citizens who have resistance to Dunedin’s present course of revitalization and growth. As their voices are heard, some of their concerns are revisited for the better. I believe we are on the right track.
Given a safe and comfortable setting, people look for usefulness, sense of belonging and pleasureability as additional and distinct needs to enhance their walking experience.”
Following are what Mehta describes as the “Four Factors that Lead to Urban Vitalization” and how Dunedin has used the same factors as a road map.
- Dunedin had an existing downtown in need of revitalization, with some older buildings with small town charm. The streets were the same walkable grid as when the city was established in 1899. The marina and some of the older neighborhoods nearby added to the appeal. Empty storefronts offered potential for small businesses such as galleries, clothing stores and restaurants to move in.
- The promotion of density includes mixed use developments and town homes in older neighborhoods in or near downtown, and the expansion of the downtown area on the Douglas corridor and elsewhere to provide more opportunity for businesses and residents.
- Future and new construction of elevated parking on cleared parcels of land near Main Street and along the Douglas corridor are critical to relieve automobile parking issues during business hours, public events and weekend evenings.
Make a Main Street
- The City of Dunedin’s CRA offered incentives for development and businesses to return to Main Street and the downtown area. An existing, historic but blighted downtown in the 1980’s fortunately had a core of business leaders that wouldn’t give up downtown as their home. Empty storefronts offered potential for small businesses like art and antique galleries, clothing stores and restaurants to move in.
- Upon opening, the Pinellas Trail at Main Street instantly created a vibrant destination where people could come together walking, running, riding and skating, and wanting to explore.
- The Pinellas Trail and Dunedin’s own momentum have resulted in the rise of the business occupancy rate in downtown Dunedin from 30 percent to 100 percent.
Offer a Warm Welcome
- Dunedin offers trail connectivity to parks, nearby neighborhoods, Spring Training facilities on Douglas, the Library on Douglas, Dunedin History Museum, Dunedin Fine Art Center, Dunedin Community Center, Dunedin Causeway, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island.
- Retail, restaurants, art galleries and art studios for teaching abound in the downtown area.
- Dunedin offers many public events, featuring live music, visual and performing art.
As Dunedin continues to open its arms to visitors and residents alike, the city is on the verge of embracing what might be the ultimate warm welcome: a city-wide Public Arts Policy. In May 2017, professional arts administrator Elizabeth Brincklow (a Dunedin citizen) was awarded the contract to prepare a city-wide Public Art Master Plan by the Dunedin City Commission. More on this coming up in my next post.