WILTON MANORS – The end of an era of sorts came this week, with the phasing out—or “sundowning”—of the Wilton Drive Task Force (WDTF), which was built into its 18-month mandate to review the two-lane initiative. The seven-member task force presented its report and recommendations to Wilton Manors City Manager Joe Gallegos and city commissioners on Tuesday.
The task force recommended that the city move ahead with the plan, offering, in its words “a set of nearterm actions to help the City ‘get its ducks in a row’ in anticipation of taking action to achieve the longterm vision for Wilton Drive.”
The 27-page report “prioritizes the elements needed to ensure the success of the project,” said a person close to the process who requested anonymity.
Foremost in those criteria is “pedestrian safety,” says the individual, “with an eye to marketing Wilton Manors as a pedestrian-friendly community, particularly on the Drive. There’s a reason there are so many night spots within a short-block radius.”
The introduction of a full-blown Arts and Entertainment District will require the ability of foot traffic—n the form of shoppers, diners, and clubgoers—to move unimpeded, “creating a destination, not a thoroughfare,” explained the person.
As recommended by the task force, the criteria for moving forward includes spreading the $5.5 million total cost over several phases, in order to introduce those changes incrementally.
These include a one-to-three year (“Near Term”) recommendation for the city to encourage business development by “address[ing] the zoning along Wilton Drive to create a predictable environment for private investors to redevelop properties along Wilton Drive. The zoning should continue to encourage development that enhances the pedestrian environment along the Drive, allow for parking behind the buildings, and provide appropriate buffering for the residential neighborhoods.”
The task force also recommended the use of “parking revenues to the enhancement of Wilton Drive through the funding of parking facilities. The Wilton Drive Task Force recommends that ALL net income generated by the parking program be placed into the Parking Revenue Fund.”
Krishan Manners, President and CEO of Wilton Manors Main Street and a member of the WDTF, is a strong proponent of the two-lane initiative, and points to the success of other cities which have adopted similar plans for downtown revival.
“Delray Beach,” for one, “has experienced a renaissance along Atlantic Avenue and elsewhere,” Manners notes, citing Oakland Park, Hollywood, and other examples. The report notes that “the City will [need to] set aside funds annually for future repaving and maintenance of Wilton Drive and Dixie Highway.”