The City of Plant City is in the planning stages of adding vibrant plant life and a plethora of way finding signs to downtown.
The ball is officially rolling for downtown revitalization thanks to the city’s commitment to move forward with simple, but meaningful, steps over the course of the next few years.
City Manager Bill McDaniel broke the short term goal up into six steps: adding way finding signs, tackling landscape design, completing a string light project along Evers Street, adding more lighting throughout McCall Park, renovating the alley on Evers Street and looking into redesigning McCall Park.
The way finding signs will inarguably be one of the simplest, yet most immediately impactful, changes to come to downtown. While the historic downtown core is not massive in size, many of the unique businesses that call the area home are spread out over several blocks. With McCall Park running through the middle of the shopping sector and the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum acting as the focal point between two of the largest parking lots downtown, it’s easy to miss what’s nestled in the district if you don’t know where to look.
Currently, most shoppers who go downtown pull up directly in front of the business they are looking to shop at, pop in for a few minutes and then get back in their car to leave. Despite the frequent traffic downtown, there are not too many pedestrians and businesses hurt because of it.
Community Design Solutions, the consultant group hired by Main Street Plant City and the City of Plant City, suggested adding signage downtown to make the district more accessible to out-of-towners and even local residents that don’t frequent the area.
Tripp Muldrow, the presenter with CDS, said having signs displayed at all open lots and street parking strips that indicated the section was free parking and the hours a car was allowed to remain in the spot would make people feel comfortable stopping and exploring the area.
Adding way finding signs throughout downtown was one of the things McDaniel agreed the city was ready to bring to life and commissioners agreed on Dec. 9 to begin the process of getting the project planned and funded.
“First and foremost, we could easily implement a way finding signage program in downtown,” McDaniel said. “It’s been on my radar for a number of years and we are at the place now where it makes sense to go through with the plan and really get some great signage up throughout downtown.”
CDS heavily recommended having building markers to indicate which locations were iconic destinations downtown as well as having trailblazer signs throughout the area to indicate which direction some of the prominent shops, restaurants or offices were. They said having an informational kiosk would also help guide travelers through the area.
The general landscape design of downtown was also toward the top of McDaniel’s to-do list. While there currently is a lot of greenery in the core, there isn’t much else. CDS brought up transforming the bump out space on some of the one-ways like Reynolds Street into colorful avenues with the strategic placing of plant life along the side of the roads.
McDaniel said he has already begun the conversation with FDOT, and while that will ultimately be in their hands, there does seem to be some movement toward change on their end.
As for the rest of downtown, that’s up to the city’s vision.
“Everything else, Evers, Collins, Palmer, the cross-streets of Drane and Arden Mays, all of that is going to be our responsibility and I want it to be cohesive and flow with each other,” McDaniel said. “You don’t want a stark contrast from Reynolds to say Collins or over to Drane, even. You’d like it to all be complimentary.”
However, he said it’s a passion project he’s been hoping to tackle for quite some time. Currently when walking around downtown — which he does practically every day — he said he sees many opportunities to “improve, update and just make it better.”
“I kind of envision a landscaping plan that brings a color and a lot of vibrancy downtown,” McDaniel said. “Right now we have a lot of just greenery and I can just see color and I also like — and I probably don’t know the right terms — but I call it ‘dimensional landscaping.’ Where it might be tiered in places. You might get some more texture to it. That’s why, quite frankly, I want to work with a landscaping design professional to come up with the plan of what I think is in my head and what the folks in Main Street and downtown want to see and extract that and turn it into a viable plan for us.”
While there is no set timeline yet, McDaniel has expressed his intention to get things in motion as soon as possible. Obviously a professional plan would have to be created before the city will move toward reworking the greenery in the area, but residents can nonetheless expect to at least see the conversation come into play very soon.