Beautifying turnpike exits next in E. 192 revitalization
By Tiffanie Reynolds
East U.S. Highway 192 will get a brand new look starting this year, with the E192 Community Redevelopment Agency giving the area a better entrance to both visiting and resident drivers.
During a recent annual update to the board of Osceola County commissioners, the CRA announced that its latest goal and project is Florida’s Turnpike landscape improvements by exits 242 and 244. In the planning stages since 2012 with Osceola County, the $3 million Comprehensive Landscape Enhancement Project will add trees and other plants to beautify these exits, replace signage by the exits and additional improvements to give a better sense of place along U.S. Highway 192.
Because the county and E192 CRA have a larger enhancement plan in place, the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise gave the CRA $500,000 for the Turnpike exit improvements. The money, to be used this year, will start the enhancement process by planting initial trees and other plants along the exits. To continue the project, the CRA worked with the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to create a phase plan for the enhancement project, which will give them additional time to gather funds to add more landscape and signage.
While the commission agreed that the landscape funding is a start, Commissioner Frank Attkisson stressed that it isn’t enough if the CRA and County Commission wanted to make lasting changes to
“If we really want to do something different and show welcome to Osceola, show a business attitude, we’re going to have to spend some money. I know we got the fix-up cost, but a half a million dollars, if you bought trees and landscaping, that’s not going to go too far at all,” Attkisson said.
Signage is the biggest focus in the project, as both the CRA and county commissioners are interested in rebranding the corridor to once again be appealing to visitors as the overall focus for the E U.S. Highway 192 corridor is revitalization.
Their cornerstone project is a master plan for Osceola Heritage Park. Already adding a multipurpose office building and an additional concrete display area in 2013, the completed master plan will make Osceola Heritage Park the CRA’s centerpiece of revitalization.
“Our overall goal is to continue to work with the Florida Turnpike Authority and FDOT for improvements to 192 and to the turnpike. That will be looking at urban standards versus rural standards, as well as enhanced landscaping and signage and facade treatment along that corridor,” E 192 CRA Planning and Design Director Kerry Goodwin said.
The CRA’s area of revitalization along the E U.S. Highway 192 corridor spans 2.8 miles from Kissimmee city limits to Partin Settlement Road.
Correction: The landscaping on the Florida Turnpike exits is part of normal highway operations for the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, and it’s not a special project. The beautification is also budgeted for $500,000, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise did not give $500,000 to E192 CRA.