Concerns arise about students’ plan for downtown Oldsmar development

Following a public presentation of the conceptual plan for the development of Oldsmar’s downtown district, city officials raised a number of concerns about the viability, and direction, of the project.

Students from USF's School of Architecture and Design came up with a concept plan for the development of downtown Oldsmar, but not everyone agrees with the direction of the project.

Students from USF’s School of Architecture and Community Design came up with a concept plan for the development of downtown Oldsmar, but some city officials said they don’t agree with the direction of the project.

TECO Hall was lined with rows of drawings, diagrams, data and displays on Monday afternoon, as students from USF’s School of Architecture and Community Design held a workshop titled a Community Concept Display of a Redevelopment Master Plan of State Street and Park Boulevard.

During the three-hour session, the public was able to view the students’ plans for developing Oldsmar’s downtown district, with comments cards provided to promote feedback.

But despite the obvious amount of work that went into researching and creating the impressive array of models, designs and 3D diagrams, after walking through the presentation, some city officials expressed concerns about the direction of the project.

Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel.

Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel.

“When we all gave feedback and went through our process here…and to a great extent, gave them marching orders, I don’t think any of us necessarily envisioned what those marching orders all combined would come back to look like,” Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel said during the Oldsmar City Council meeting on Tuesday night.

“So maybe even though the concept and design that we saw last night…put in everything that all of us want, it may not be exactly what we envisioned. We certainly didn’t accomplish everything we expected, from my perspective.”

With his comments, Seidel seemed to capture the inherent problem with trying to translate the ideas and dreams of a large number of people into a single unifying concept.

While the students used the feedback culled from a four-hour brainstorming session in February to form the basis of their concept plan, which emphasizes walkability, greenspaces and a blend of old and new architecture, once the many facets of the project were put to paper, they didn’t necessarily mesh with the visions of those involved with the planning.

TECO Hall was lined with displays, diagrams and artist renderings of Oldsmar downtown development concept on Monday afternoon.

TECO Hall was lined with displays, diagrams and artist renderings of Oldsmar’s downtown development project on Monday afternoon.

For example, as he walked through the rows of diagrams and drawings on Monday, recently re-elected council member Jerry Beverland was scratching his head over certain aspects of the design.

“They’ve got a lot of work to do,” the longtime lawmaker who has never been afraid to say what he feels, told Oldsmar Connect. “Right now, they have a building sitting on a drainage pond. So that’s a major flaw.”

Jerry Beverland talks to the USF students about some issues he had with their design concept for downtown Oldsmar.

Jerry Beverland talks to the USF students about some issues he had with their concept for downtown Oldsmar.

“The presentation is great, but drawings are easy,” he added. “To make it happen, fundamentally? I’m skeptical.”

On Tuesday night, Beverland said that he informed the students of the drainage pond issue, and they said they would remove that aspect of the plan prior to bringing their final presentation before the council early next month.

“The way they had it laid out was impossible,” he said. “So I spoke up. I tried to be as gentle as possible. But they did thank me at the end.”

After the meeting, Mayor Doug Bevis spoke about the current state of project.

“Obviously, this was a display of the input the students received from the council, city staff, and other members of the community,” Bevis said by phone. “They had some interesting ideas, but some might not be the best ideas for certain components of the project.”

Bevis went on to say he liked the students’ vision for making Park Boulevard pedestrian friendly and tying the downtown district to the city’s scenic waterfront.

But he also admitted that some aspects of the plan most likely would not be incorporated into the finished project, something he said he saw happening all along.

Oldsmar resident Emma Clark studies the conceptual drawings and data boards set up at TECO Hall by USF design students on Monday.

Oldsmar resident Emma Clark studies the conceptual drawings and data boards set up at TECO Hall by USF design students on Monday.

“I never envisioned this whole concept being implemented 100 percent,” the mayor said. “I think there are good parts of the plan. Some components work, others don’t.”

“It had a different look or feel than what I thought,” he added. “But when you take all this input and try to put it all together, it’s tough. I think there are some things we can take away from it. They definitely sparked some ideas that we can use.”

According to City Manager Bruce Haddock, the students will present their final report, complete with a 3D model of the design, at the next council meeting on May 3rd, after which time their work on the project will be completed.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Where the latest edition of Oldsmar’s downtown redevelopment plan goes from there is anyone’s guess.

“We’ll probably hold a workshop to help prioritize where we want to go with it,” Bevis said.

“Do we want to take the property next to City Hall and make it a park and just develop around it? Who knows? We’ll have to see what happens.”

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