Future look of Broadway in downtown Kissimmee stirs debate
By Tiffanie Reynolds
A project planned for Broadway in downtown Kissimmee has the road being reduced from four lanes to two and adding angled parking.
As opinions on both sides for the future look of Broadway were aired during Tuesday’s Kissimmee City Commission workshop meeting, municipal leaders decided that waiting was the best solution for the phase two downtown streetscape project.
Reducing Broadway from four lanes to two and angled parking were the biggest issues of debate. Commissioner Sara Shaw, Wanda Rentas and Jose Alvarez spoke against those details of the project, while Commissioner Cheryl Grieb and Mayor Jim Swan were on the fence about the project overall.
Ultimately, the commission unanimously agreed to discuss the project again in 90 days, giving the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency time to talk to business owners and present a plan that addresses the concerns.
“Right now, I have some questions myself, and I know that my fellow commissioners do, too. I think this is a real turning point, honestly, and there’s been a lot of misinformation scattered up and down every street in downtown.This is an opportunity for this commission, if we can address some of these issues, to turn this whole community in a more positive direction. Doing something both for or against it tonight would be a big mistake,” said Swan.
The Phase 2 Pedestrian Enhancement Streetscape project for downtown Kissimmee focuses on Broadway and the connected side roads. Specifically, the five blocks along Broadway from Stewart Avenue to Sproule Avenue. Brian Hood, from Kimley-Horn and Associates, presented the current plan for the project, which includes reducing Broadway from four lanes to two lanes, replacing the traffic signal on Ruby Avenue and Broadway with a roundabout and raised intersections on Broadway at Darlington Avenue and Dakin Avenue to slow traffic. It also included angled parking on Broadway, dedicated left-hand turn lanes on all four intersections on Broadway, extending curbs for shorter pedestrian crosswalks on Broadway, extending all sidewalks to 15 feet and repaving all connected side streets in clay brick.
The majority of the commission expressed concerns on how the current plan would affect businesses already on Broadway, both during and after construction. Rentas and Shaw wanted more details on project construction, and how the city would accommodate access to businesses during that process. Alvarez said he was strongly against angled parking, listing concerns such as lingering exhaust fumes, safety for drivers and accessibility for both residents and tourists.
“I would hate to see anyone go out of business because we wanted to make the town prettier. I know for a fact that the last streetscape that happened, the guy that used to own the uniform shop blames his going out of business completely on the streetscapes. He lost all of his business to the construction that was happening. People couldn’t access his business for too long. I would hate to lose just one because of this,” Shaw said.
But city commissioners doesn’t have much time. Phase two of the downtown streetscape project is currently fourth on the list of projects to be funded by Metroplan Orlando, and, if not moved forward by the city, the project could lose those funds. Without Metroplan, City Manager Mike Steigerwald said that the project, which would take an estimated 240 days to complete, would take between five to ten years through city funds.