ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Augustine City Commission has voted unanimously to approve the downtown streetscape project.
As part of the project, Hypolita, Treasury and Spanish streets will get new drainage and water utilities as well as become more pedestrian-friendly with new brick-paving sidewalks and historic street lights.
Property owners along those streets will have to pay higher taxes over the next 15 years to pay for the improvements.
"When you get a truck that comes down this way and a car that comes this way and five pedestrians walking side by side, it's a problem because the pedestrians have nowhere to go. They have to step up on a curb," said former St. Augustine Mayor Len Weeks, who owns a business on Hypolita Street.
The people who work along these streets made a big push for the project.
"One of the things we as businesses hear about all the time is it's just kind of scary at night because there's not enough lighting," Weeks said.
Flooding has long been an issue in the area.
"Anybody who has been downtown, (in the) historic area of St. Augustine when it's been one of these flash floods, where within an hour we get an inch or two of rain and the streets are completely flooded (knows) you can't walk on them," Weeks said.
Construction will begin next month and business owners are preparing to take a hit to their pocketbooks in the meantime because vehicle traffic through those streets will be limited.
"Yeah, there's going to be some loss of business," Weeks said. "Hopefully it will be minimal, and the city is doing everything they can to make this happen as quickly as they can."
The $3.2 million project will be jointly funded. The 54 property owners along the affected streets will pay $750,000 over 15 years in an extra tax. The city will pay the rest.
Eighty percent of property owners gave their full support of the tax.
"We had a few people who said they were against doing any projects down there, but we felt strongly that we have a lot of public support for this," said Public Works Director Martha Graham.
If things go according to plan, the streets could be done by April 2015.