The Palm District is the section of Main Street from the bridge to US 19. It is recognizable from the large number of Washingtonian Palms, hence the name.
Stonehaven at Main Street (fka Main Street Landing) sits at one end and Keiser University at the other, this stretch of Main Street is garnering quite a bit of interest lately. Stonehaven’s apartments are full and the storefronts are all but full. Kelly Maki’s Salt Room and the new Astro Cycles showroom are just two of the new businesses going in between the two bookends.
I suspect that we will see other businesses looking hard at this area as it has abundant parking in the garage, a demographic group with money on one end and a thousand students attending college at the other end. This area would appear to be a retail and food service heaven.
Some of the buildings in the Palm District can likely be repurposed, but several are prime candidates for replacement. Built in the 50’s they lack some basic things (eg. adequate electric service and central air conditioning) that we take for granted today.
Between the parking garage south of Main and the possibility of parking off Bridge Street north of Main, there is no reason why new buildings couldn’t be closer to Main Street, without big parking lots between Main Street and the buildings.
Buildings in the Historic District are generally right up next to the sidewalk. Many of these buildings were built in the 20’s and 30’s, before cars took over. In contrast, the buildings in the Palm District were situated for the benefit of cars, not pedestrians. Large front parking lots, or side parking lots that create gaps between the buildings, were the order of the day back in the 50’s.
Take a stroll in the Historic District and compare that with a stroll in the Palm District. You will understand why new construction ought to be closer to the street. The Palm District is simply NOT a nice place to walk. Our vision for the Palm District is all about making the area more welcoming for walkers and cyclists and catering less to cars and drivers who just want to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time.
You can have an inviting street that is great for a stroll past a variety of shops or you can have a highway where everyone goes flying by as fast as possible on their way somewhere else. You can’t have both.
The parallel parking places that were added to Main Street were an inexpensive “proof of concept”… Proving that there was absolutely NO reason why Main Street needs to be four lanes all the way from River Road to US 19. Vehicular traffic simply doesn’t support it. Main Street is two lanes, with parallel parking, all the way from River Road to Madison Street.
In an ideal situation, the street would be put on a “road diet“, streetscaped, and the buildings would butt right up against wide, walkable sidewalks with lots of shade. This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but the stage is being set to allow it in the future. (Road diets have other applications in New Port Richey, but those are the subject of at least three future NPR Notes. Stay tuned.)
One step we are taking now to address the walkability issue is the ordering of a rather large electric trolley that will run from the parking garage, down Main Street, and loop back through the Historic District. You will be able to park in the garage and jump on the trolley. You will then be able to get off off in the Palm District, at the Hacienda, Sims Park, the Richey Theatre, or near your favorite restaurant, bar, or shop. You’ll also be able to park in one of the downtown lots and ride to where you want to go in the Palm District. The trolley should be delivered in November.
Working on improving both US 19 and the Palm District will go a long way toward making our city better tomorrow than it is today, but there is still a lot to do. Stay tuned.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor