‘Concept plan’ to redesign 5 Points parking and traffic flow approaches completion

By Stephen Kindland
Resident Community News

Members of the 5 Points Merchants Association and Riverside Avondale Preservation are close to completing a “concept plan” they hope will lead to $750,000 worth of traffic flow and parking improvements to the 5 Points business district.

The plan’s main objective is to “shift the balance more in favor of pedestrians, bicyclists and local traffic,” according to Stephen Tocknell of Tocknell Planning Services.
Tocknell told a group of two dozen people gathered on July 12 at Black Sheep restaurant on Oak Street that “the time is right” to redesign the 5 Points area because the city won’t have new design standards for streets in place for at least another year. That’s the earliest date a 12-member committee formed through a new city ordinance is expected to make recommendations to encourage walking, bicycling and mass transit as alternatives to private vehicle usage, according to Tocknell.

Nancy Darlow, owner of The UPS Store in 5 Points, gestures toward an area of the historic business district during a recent tour taken by members of the 5 Points Merchants Association and Riverside Avondale Preservation. James Reed (from left) of the city of Jacksonville and City Councilman Jim Love took part in the tour, led by planner Stephen Tocknell (center)

Nancy Darlow, owner of The UPS Store in 5 Points, gestures toward an area of the historic business district during a recent tour taken by members of the 5 Points Merchants Association and Riverside Avondale Preservation. James Reed (from left) of the city of Jacksonville and City Councilman Jim Love took part in the tour, led by planner Stephen Tocknell (center)

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, whose district includes San Marco, helped pass the ordinance because the city has only one set of design standards for streets, regardless of whether roadways are considered to be in densely populated urban areas or in rural settings.

“This is a golden moment,” Tocknell said before leading a two-hour tour from Black Sheep through the 5 Points area. “We want our design standards to be a prototype for what the city is going to do. It’s a chance to be a model for the rest of the historic districts – San Marco, Springfield, Avondale, even Downtown.”

Riverside Avondale Preservation is using money left over from fundraisers to pay Tocknell $36,000 to complete the plan by November. RAP and the merchants association plan to submit the study to city officials to bolster District 14 Councilman Jim Love’s promise to seek $750,000 for 5 Points area improvements during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Love pledged his support while praising the efforts of the two groups in a recent letter to RAP president Carmen Godwin.

“It is impressive that the neighborhood organization and the merchants association are willing to invest private dollars in public infrastructure projects, and I will do everything I can to facilitate the construction,” Love wrote.

Public support for restructuring the commercial district appears to be growing as well, according to others involved in the project. 5 Points Merchants Association president Allan DeVault, who also is a managing partner at Black Sheep, said he was delighted to see so many people take part in the tour.

“It was a good to see representation from the city and [the Florida Department of Transportation],” DeVault said. “Very encouraging.”
He also said a public forum will be held to gather more community input. The date, time and location have not been determined.

Tocknell said after the tour that local pedestrian traffic has nearly tripled in recent years, a belief that is helping the search for a balance between vehicular traffic and alternative forms of transportation, such as bicycling.

Atop the plan’s priority list are changes to the five-point intersection of Post, Park, Margaret and Lomax streets, from which the historic district gets its name, as well as restructuring of the intersections at Post and Margaret streets and Post and Park streets.

Tocknell said the consensus has been that the current traffic control system at the five-point intersection – which resembles a quasi-roundabout with stop signs and flashing red and yellow lights – is dangerous and confusing, especially to motorists unfamiliar with the area.

Other study items include block-long sidewalk repairs along Lomax Street, and improvements to crosswalks at Park Street, midblock between Lomax and Post streets and at Margaret and Oak streets.

Reconfiguration of on-street parking also might be proposed, as well as additional angle or reverse-angle parking; facilitation of bicycle traffic and bicycle parking, and changes to service vehicle access.

Former 5 Points Merchants Association president David Joudi said he was impressed with the widespread interest, and that he is looking forward to attending the upcoming public forum.
“As long as one person isn’t so stubborn about getting his way, we’ll be all right,” said Joudi, who has owned and operated Riverside Liquors & Village Wine Shop in the heart of 5 Points since 2001. “You have to think of the common good.”

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