Port St. Lucie study working toward new downtown along Village Green Drive corridor
PORT ST. LUCIE — The city wants to revitalize the Village Green Drive corridor in the next five plus years to spark a new downtown hub at City Center.
The long-term vision of a new downtown calls for a continuation of some industrial areas as well as new opportunities such as a hotel, restaurants, brew pubs and an ice rink, City Manager Russ Blackburn, told TCPalm.
Village Green Drive is within the Sandhill neighborhood and stretches 2 miles from Crosstown Parkway to Southeast Tiffany Avenue, connecting St. Lucie West to eastern Port St. Lucie East and City Center.
The corridor is home to the St. Lucie Medical Complex, the Annex Center at Industrial Park and Savannah Preserve State Park.
Marlin Engineering canvassed the corridor a few weeks ago for feedback from some of the businesses along Village Green Drive. Their biggest concern was how long construction would take, since it could affect how workers and customers would access businesses.
Stix Nickson, owner of Drummers Only Drumshop, is one of the few retailers located along Village Green Drive. Nickson said the project is great because, in the long-run, it could help bring more retail stores like his to the area, which currently is industrial dominated.
The revitalization, which is completing Phase I of planning, will cost roughly $4 million. Phase I consists of reviewing existing conditions of the corridor and getting citizen feedback to create design plans. The countywide half-percent sales tax, approved by voters in 2019, will fund $1.5 million of Phase I.
The city is continuing to collect community input, and the next phase, design planning, is expected to begin next month.
In a community Zoom meeting Thursday, residents discussed the improvements they wanted.
Feedback from the 24 people who attended showed support for new beautification projects such as adding street furniture, more enhanced vegetation at medians, more sidewalks, making sidewalks wider for bicyclists and pedestrians to share more comfortably, more trees for shade and additional benches and street lighting.
The city also will use traffic studies and vehicle accident data at major intersections to help restructure or modify problem areas.
Between 2015 and 2019, according to the data, there were approximately 114 crashes along the corridor, 25% of which resulted in injury. Four crashes involved bicyclists and one involved a pedestrian. Data identified Walton Road as a collision hotspot due to its wide turning radius.
Traffic engineers will analyze the data to come up with solutions and recommendations, city officials said.
Samantha Koem, an employee at Chrome Fish Customs, said that even though the city is studying accident data, there still could be a rise in accidents if the corridor is leads to a downtown hub, resulting in more traffic.
“Our business thrives off of accidents because we do car repairs for insurance claims, so this would benefit us in a sense,” Koem said, “but looking at data and providing recommendations is not going to stop reckless drivers.”
Koem choice for any new businesses in a new downtown? More restaurants.
Other community feedback showed 33% of participants believe their greatest community asset was City Center, which is adjacent to the corridor. The 46-acre City Center, anchored by the city-owned by the MIDFLORIDA Event Center, includes an outdoor stage, a parking garage and a waterfront trail with paved bicycle/pedestrian paths.
Port St. Lucie for years has been trying to sell parcels around City Center for future development. The city is to host a virtual meeting Oct. 29 to discuss what types of development and investments residents, businesses and visitors would like to see at City Center.
Olivia McKelvey Treasure Coast Newspapers