INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- An old subject got a re-run at Indian Rocks Beach last Thursday.
As the famous Dr. Yogi Berra once said, it was like deja vu all over again.
The plot of land south of Walsingham, west of the Intracoastal Waterway and east of Gulf Boulevard, extending down to where you feel you could touch both the Gulf and the Intracoastal if your arms were just a little longer was the subject of discussion.
The area has been variously called the Narrows and the Business Triangle. The city has never given the area enough infusion of money or enthusiasm to kick the area into high gear.
The struggle over what to do with this chunk of land that could be very attractive and a people magnet has stumped the folks in Indian Rocks Beach for a good while.
About 20 people, most of whom own property in the area, showed up last Thursday to talk about it. Also on hand were members of the city commission.
Two city managers ago, changes were begun that have resulted in some progress. Under the regime of Tom Brobeil, City Manager John Coffey's predecessor, a park was created and the Historical Society's home and museum was established there and some clean up in the area was done.
Now Coffey is at bat and he and the city's community development chief, Pete Prensa, are taking a swing at it. The area seems to offer as many challenges as opportunities.
Of course, the model for taking a dowdy, rundown area with aging structures and not much to attract a strolling public is the Baltimore Inner Harbor or Boston Market District projects, both successes by Jim Rouse, a developer.
The area in Indian Rocks Beach is much smaller but the same principal applies. There is a nearby good example in Dunedin which took a dismal downtown and turned into a prize winning people place.
There is much to work with in the Narrows. A marina along the Intracoastal could be developed, the solid waste area could be removed, signs could be put up to let the casual passerby know what is available, the park area could have focus events, parking could be figured out.
The Holiday Inn motel with all its amenities could be an anchor to get things rolling. As it happens, the city is in a litigation struggle with the motel, and interestingly, a secret session about that followed the Narrows discussion last Thursday.
What works in challenges like this, according to experts, is a public-private partnership with a quasi public group raising funds, generating ideas and moving things off square one.
The Narrows has traditionally referred to the width of the Intracoastal from the Walsingham bridge south several hundred yards.
Actually, in the area just south of the triangle, the land narrows abruptly. In the unlikely event that an actual and long desired for hurricane should hit these shores, the mighty ocean could make a cut through the narrow neck, creating the only pass between Clearwater and Madeira Beach. It would be boon for boating.
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