By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- City leaders plan to breathe new life into an aging stretch of U.S. 1.
The City Council recently approved the Ridgewood Corridor Plan, which aims to upgrade an aging, three-mile stretch of U.S. 1 that extends from Dunlawton Avenue south to the Rose Bay Bridge. The plan addresses strategies to improve the area, such as grants for landscaping and demolition, ongoing maintenance of public facilities, and expanding the use of community development block grant funds.
The plan was developed to address the need to reduce blight in the east side of the city, which had been overshadowed in recent years by growth on the west side that included new shopping centers, such as The Pavilion at Port Orange and Altamira Village. City leaders see the plan as a "first step" in improving the east side both aesthetically and economically.
Senior planner Penelope Cruz said initial implementation of the plan would involve the construction of a gateway sign at the southern end of the corridor near the Rose Bay Bridge, redevelopment of the corridor's drainage system, and median refurbishments, all of which are expected to begin next month. She added the Planning Commission would review code amendments related to the plan's implementation in the spring and work on a sidewalk project funded by block grants is expected begin in the fall.
While city leaders believe the plan on the books can help improve the corridor's economic viability, they also expect it to be followed by other initiatives aimed at eliminating blight.
Mayor Allen Green and Councilman Bob Ford both said the city should set aside some money to purchase blighted property in the corridor with the idea of turning it around through remodeling or redeveloping the property and selling it back to the private sector.
"The only way to get them out is to buy them out," Mayor Green said, referring to the owners of blighted property in the area. "Somewhere along the line we've got to change the whole atmosphere of (the Ridgewood Corridor)."
Mr. Ford said the city should consider "strategic" purchases on a "piece by piece" basis, or one property at a time.
He also suggested city leaders crack down on "negative zoning" in the area, such as tattoo parlors and concrete yards, which he believes makes U.S. 1 look like "a throwaway area."
"If you go down there and look at the current zoning, it will give you a headache," Mr. Ford said.
Vice Mayor Don Burnette said several residents said the No. 1 improvement they wanted to see on U.S. 1 was relocating utility lines underground, echoing similar streetscape improvement projects in South Daytona and Daytona Beach Shores. Mr. Burnette said an underground utility project would come with a high price tag, but would also prove beneficial to residents on the east side.
"Even before South Daytona did their streetscape, just taking utility lines down changed that stretch of Ridgewood Avenue," he said. "I think it also creates some sort of advantages. When neighborhoods have less power lines, during a storm the problems upstream get fixed first and they have fewer outage periods."
Citizens welcomed the plan to improve the east side of the city.
Lynn Bramerel said the Ridgewood Corridor needs improvement "from top to bottom" and hopes the plan in place will positively change an area she considers the gateway to the city.
"This is a waterfront area," she said. "To see this in disrepair just breaks my heart every day."