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Date of Issue: October 22, 2008

Plaza could be gateway to Anna Maria City Pier

Anna Maria’s transportation enhancement grant committee might only have $358,000 to spend in beautifying the retail-office-residential district along Pine Avenue, but it has its sights set on a plan that would make that grant money worthwhile.

At its Oct. 13 meeting, TEG members discussed a design created by committee member Tim Eiseler for a boardwalk along the beach in front of the city pier that would include a “pier plaza” as the focal point.

Eiseler said he looked at boardwalks along Fort Lauderdale and Rio de Janeiro for possible inspiration, but he soon concluded “that wasn’t Anna Maria.”

What he presented to the committee was a design that harkened back to “Old Florida” and the “character of Anna Maria,” he said.

“This says ‘Anna Maria,’” Eiseler told the committee.

His plan calls for a boardwalk about 360-feet long and anywhere from 8 to 12 feet wide that would have a plaza at the pier’s entrance to enhance the pier’s character and flavor. This would be the “gateway to the pier,” Eiseler said.

City Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who chairs the committee, was enthusiastic about the proposal, noting it would tie in with the 100-year anniversary of the pier in 2012.

Eiseler said he was able to preserve and enhance views of the bay for “car-sitters,” while at the same time featuring the pier as a draw for visitors.

The Eiseler plan would have native plants along the boardwalk, be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, create a “pier experience” for those unable to go out on the pier, and a plaza would allow the pier to become a “gathering spot” in the city, he said.

Bike racks also would be provided in addition to historical signs about the pier and the city. Environmental education signs could also be used in appropriate places and picnic tables would be included.

The Island trolley turn-around would be redesigned, and the parking lot would be crushed shell.

Eiseler observed, however, that there are negatives associated with the plan.

Without cost estimates, a city pier plaza might place all the grant money in one location, or become too expensive to build, he noted.

There are also maintenance costs to consider, along with potential conflicts with utility poles and overhead wires. Storm damage and insurance are other issues, he said.

Still, committee members were enthusiastic about the presentation and Eiseler’s initial design work.

Mattick said Chris Piazza of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Bartow office attend the committee’s Oct. 27 meeting to review the proposal and tour the city pier and beachfront area.

“We need to get a cost estimate and see if this is feasible from the DOT’s standpoint,” Mattick said.

The committee has until July 2009 to decide on where the grant money will be spent, and already has indicated that trolley shelters are first on the priority list. The money will come from a federal grant in the DOT’s 2010-11 budget.

But a well-conceived pier plaza might just take precedence over trolley shelters.

Mattick suggested the committee needs cost estimates before proceeding with consideration of a pier plaza.

The DOT is providing design and engineering services at no charge for any project funded by the grant.

Committee members include Mayor Fran Barford, Mannon Lavoie and Piazza from the DOT, and residents Janet Aubry, Don Brownewell, Nancy Colcord, Michael Coleman, Eiseler, Steve Kring, Cindy Mansour, Sissy Quinn, Mary Selby and Betty Yanger.

Committee meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 27, at city hall.