5 Points concept plan shared with community

5 Points concept plan shared with community
Lomax Street at Park and Margaret streets and at Oak Street will include shorter crosswalks and pedestrian bulbs – protruding, rounded corners that will tighten the turning radius to slow traffic.

Residents, business owners offer suggestions

Yet another 5 Points concept plan meeting, 11th in a series of meetings that began with a walking tour of 5 Points in July 2013, was held last month in City Council offices for the benefit of a dozen and a half residents and business owners who raised concerns about the proposed project.

During the review of the concept plan, Councilman-at-Large Robin Lumb noted that “The current intersection is weird; most people approach it with great fear and trepidation,” which is one of the reasons for the change at that intersection.

To alleviate potential accidents, the plan proposes to use shorter crosswalks, pedestrian “bulbs,” new public plazas and relocating the 5 Points beacon seven feet away.

After viewing the presentation by Stephen Tocknell, of Tocknell Planning Services, the primary concerns about the $4 million project included the possibility of traffic stacking up on Margaret Street northbound at Park Street, and that no new parking will be added to the area.

Residents at 1661 Riverside, the mixed-use development that also faces Margaret Street, felt that the traffic study counts were lower than what they believe them to be and, with the proposal to tighten the turning radius at Park and Margaret streets, will slow traffic to the point of a significant back-up in front of the condominium.

Tocknell noted that the traffic counts study, which was privately paid for by a generous benefactor, showed that there was much less than 5,000 trips per day on Margaret Street between Riverside Avenue and Park Street, with less than 50 trips per hour crossing Park to continue northbound on Margaret.

Neither Keith Daw, general counsel for First Coast Energy which owns a Shell station on Margaret Street, nor John and Karen Zell, who live at 1661 Riverside, were buying those numbers, stating that the traffic was heavier than the study suggested.

“It’s not so much morning – the morning traffic cuts down Oak Street – it’s at lunch time and at dinner time,” said John Zell. “At night that place is just booming; cars can’t back up out of parking spaces because there are cars stopped in the travel lanes. It’s hard to get out of Margaret Street.”

Zell did propose a solution to keep the traffic moving that got more than a few interested nods. “Why not make Margaret at Park a right-turn only lane?” he asked. “No straight, no left [turn on to Park].”
“This is one more great idea,” said Tocknell. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t proceed with this suggestion when we get to the drawings stage.”

Daw expressed concern that the project needed to be thought through more thoroughly for a broader area in order to accommodate what Tocknell and other community leaders hoped would result in more pedestrian and bicycle traffic through 5 Points and make it safer and more attractive.

“5 Points has been, for a hundred years, a major flow-through area. We ask you not to ignore that 5 Points is not just a destination,” said Daw. “It is an area through which traffic flows to other areas, and not just I-95.”

Tom Purdie, a local businessman and property owner, said that his primary issue is that a $4 million project will not result in additional parking. “There is an invisible parking war going on in this area; you have the haves and the have-nots,” he said. “You have people who have their own dedicated parking and more and more every day they are putting up tow-away signs, fences and now they are even putting guards outside.”

“To spend that kind of money and not address parking is kind of ridiculous to me,” he stated.
One final suggestion proposed creating a cut-through from I-95 at Park Street to the Westside by utilizing a portion of College Street. “A broader master plan would include creating a by-pass up by 95 between Park and College streets to give people trying to get from Downtown to the Westside an opportunity to take another route and not go through the central business district of 5 Points,” said Purdie. “Put a through street at Peninsular Place where you get off of 95.”

Purdie also noted that, as a board member of 1661 Riverside, which he said was the single largest stakeholder, the board has not endorsed the plan. “We’ve only been minimally involved and minimally noticed at this point,” he concluded.

As District 14 Councilman Jim Love noted, the next step is to get the $750,000 cost for this first phase approved by City Council in the 2014-2015 budget. If that is approved, more studies will be conducted before moving to the design phase and construction drawings.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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