Downtown Bonita Springs moves up on priority list
Bonita Springs leaders are focused on beautifying downtown while promoting what’s there in hopes of attracting visitors and businesses and igniting more interest in redevelopment.
At a workshop Tuesday, the City Council agreed the city needs to create brochures about the area.
“We need to get the word out about downtown,” said resident Nigel Fullick, who said he’s taken people there who didn’t know about eateries and amenities such as Riverside Park on the Imperial River.
Councilman Janet Martin said the city should stop referring to downtown as Old 41.
“That just doesn’t sound appetizing to anyone,” she said. “This needs to be revitalizing, new and exciting, and Old 41 just doesn’t do it.”
In 2009, the council adopted the Old U.S. 41 redevelopment district plan with design standards and incentives for Old 41 between Rosemary Drive and Bonita Beach Road.
“It’s already there so all we need to do is figure out a way to implement it,” said Everglades Wonder Gardens owner David Piper, who suggested the brochures.
For example, potential business owners may not know that they don’t need to provide parking spots for outdoor seating.
Business owners are also allowed to use on-street parking toward their required parking spaces. “We need an on-street parking plan at least, especially on Felts (Avenue),” Mayor Ben Nelson said. “For special events you need more parking. That’s the kind of investment that will have a return.”
In 2010, the council created the Felts Avenue district east of Old 41 between the Imperial River and Dean Street to attract art galleries, bed and breakfasts, cafes and dance studios.
The council also voted 7-0 to approve $2,000 to plant flowering trees on Front Street parking along the railroad, west of Old 41 Road south of Riverside Park.
Councilman Peter Simmons asked staff to look for partnerships with the private sector. “If the city is going to do $2,000, could we find a business that would donate $2,000 of flowers, trees, bushes, plants?” he said.
The council voted 5-2 to approve $15,000 to buy supplies for a Paint Your Heart Out program, where volunteers will paint the buildings of store owners who apply. The money will come out of the $100,000 economic development fund. Councilmen Steven Slachta and Bill Lonkart dissented because they wanted to know how many properties would need painting.
City Manager Carl Schwing said the budget needs to be completed before those numbers will be available. Development Services Director Arleen Hunter said city staff will work on the program details.
“This is a quick way to put a fresh face on Old 41,” Councilwoman Martha Simons said.
As part of the painting program, property owners may also apply to have the sides of their buildings painted with murals. “It has been a huge driver for tourism to (Lake Placid),” Martin said. “The one thing that I constantly hear from folks visiting our downtown park is how much they enjoy the artwork. It’s just one of those things that could put downtown Bonita Springs on the map.”
In addition, the Art in Public Places fund includes $10,000 for art acquisitions and murals.