When Allan Stowell started buying up land along Gulf to Bay Boulevard in the early 1960s, the area was considered rural.
Over the years, the road expanded, and businesses developed along the corridor. Similarly, U.S. 19, once called the Gulf Coast Highway, has changed through the years.
“That used to be the place to have property, and now it’s not the place to have property,” Stowell said about the road, which is undergoing growing pains as it is expands to a limit-access highway.
In an effort to spur development along the changing U.S. 19 corridor, city leaders unanimously approved plans to guide growth along the area at the city council meeting Thursday.
The plan is based on resident and business input from meetings over the last year and from comments on a U.S. 19 Mind Mixer website.
The study sought recommendations regarding land use, design, sustainability and economic development impacting property fronting U.S. 19 between Belleair and Curlew Road and the commercial corridor defined by Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street and North McMullen Booth Road.
The study divided those areas into five clusters for development, including the Countryside Activity Center, the Gulf to Bay Activity Center, the Sunset Point and Coachman District, the Belleair District and the “in between areas.”
Focus groups including car dealers, retailers, Realtors and neighborhood associations also met to discuss the plan and offer ideas earlier in the year. Stowell was part of those meetings, and is supportive of the plan.
There were 223 users who left 118 ideas and 191 comments on the website, according to Kate Lee from the city's planning and development department. The site can still be viewed but comments can not be left anymore, she said.
The U.S. 19 Innovative Places website asked what uses residents would like to see along the road and how can the destinations along the road be improved.
“When I said it would take many many years, I mean the dream of all this redevelopment,” said Mayor George N. Cretekos, adding that it will take private investment to make it happen. “And that’s why I said, ‘We need to start it as soon as possible.’ ”