Friday, December 3, 2021

When the Train Goes Off the Track

More Straight Talk

Photo by Steve Stefanides | Physically challenged individual being helped over curb due to Town Center removal of Handicapped Ramp during construction.


It’s easy to be what is called a “sidewalk superintendent” when standing on the sidelines and watching a construction project proceed. It’s easy to believe something may be amiss or that the timeline is apparently running way behind what should be necessary to complete a project. After all, patience is not a commodity that is in abundance during these trying times, but occasionally it is so apparent that even a blind man could see the reality of the situation.

When you have two similar projects running simultaneously on a small island like Marco, you can’t help but draw some conclusions as you watch their progress, or lack thereof. Yes, I know we’ve run into issues concerning COVID-19, but it seems as though that has become an easy excuse to use as to why things aren’t going right.

Two major shopping centers are going through what you might refer to as a “refresh” of their looks and a sprucing up. For one of those projects, it appears we are only putting “lipstick on a pig,” while the other appears to be getting that “European spa treatment.”

When Town Center Mall came up for approval of its Site Development Plan before the city, there was considerable discussion regarding the “tired appearance” of that facility. Problems with parking, drainage and the overall appearance of the complex itself were all called into question. I will admit, we have not seen the final product, the one that was due to be finished in October of last year. However, it continues to drag further and further behind as of this writing.

I can’t imagine how those tenants who are still hanging on must feel, fighting not only a downturn in the economy due to the pandemic, but fighting a construction process that has no rhyme or reason and a landlord who seems indifferent to their plight.

The lack of logical thinking in regard to removal of the handicapped access point in the vicinity of the Dunkin Donut Shop shows no thought for the potential clientele of that vendor and others in that area of the plaza, never mind the increase in the curb height for those last two additional parking spots and the removal of the wheelchair access which is illogical at best.

Unfortunately, it seems we think more about burrowing owls than access for our elderly or handicapped who have been visiting that coffee shop, barber and Marco Players facility for many years. These folks deserve better treatment than this. We only can hope this is nothing more than a sad mistake, rather than a blind eye to an obvious oversight by an uncaring owner or contractor, never mind city inspectors who should have demanded better by those in charge.

By contrast, at the intersection of Barfield and San Marco, the Shops of Marco are undergoing a similar “refresh” to that facility. Special care seems to have been taken to provide adequate parking for those storefronts that are still in operation.

The condition of the plaza, while not perfect by any means, is head and shoulders above that of the Town Center Plaza. Even though they have completely taken down the old Publix and will be replacing it with a new modern facility, they appear to be on time and proceeding on schedule.

When you are there, you can feel the difference in how the entire project is proceeding, even though they are constructing an entirely new store on that same site. It seems they are taking special steps to avoid the confusion and disorder that is in evidence on the other side of the island. I know those lease holders also may have endured issues in regard to that project, but they do appear minimal in comparison to those at the Town Center, who have been struggling over an extended period of time.

I also have to think back to the work that was done over at the Island Plaza, which some refer to as the CVC Plaza. The work done on that facility provided visitors and residents with a wonderful change when it was completed almost 18 to 24 months ago. 

It provided a completely new look for what some like to refer to as the “gateway” to the island. The new appearance of the façade on the property as well as improved landscaping and pedestrian nodes provide residents and visitors alike a welcomed change.

During that “refresh” project over at Island Plaza, we also saw a lot less disruption to lease holders and their businesses. Neither did we see a disruption to those with physical challenges, as we have seen over at Town Center Plaza.

As we move forward as a community, we must begin to think a little more about appearances in these commercial facilities as they represent what people see when they first arrive in our community.

A great example of how to do these things right can be found at the intersection of East Elkcam Circle and North Barfield. Local business owner and entrepreneur Jimmy Walker has almost completed his renovation of the old and worn-out commercial building on that corner. It looks absolutely wonderful and cleans up what had been an eyesore for a number of years.


2 responses to “When the Train Goes Off the Track”

  1. Jean Hall says:

    Speaking as a volunteer for Audubon of the Western Everglades, Audubon Florida and Rookery Bay…..I am horrified by this statement:
    “Unfortunately, it seems we think more about burrowing owls than access for our elderly or handicapped who have been visiting that coffee shop, barber and Marco Players facility for many years.”

    Local conservation groups have worked tirelessly (mainly through donations and volunteers) to save the natural environment and wildlife of Marco Island. The relentless development all over Florida is pushing many species to the brink, and those of us that care are trying to prevent further decline. Tourists do come here and infuse the economy because of the natural world of Marco. It is worth saving on many levels.
    Right now, the Marco owl population is successful, but dozens and dozens of burrows have been removed for development in 2020 alone. This Burrowing Owl population is expected to start declining within the next few years due to loss of habitat. It has been a decades long battle to try and ensure a sustainable owl population…………….and it shouldn’t be compared with the worthy needs of seniors and mobility challenged citizens. These are not mutually exclusive goals.

    We understand that people certainly have a right to develop their real estate. We only ask that they do it in a responsible and ethical way towards wildlife. All these conservation groups are trying very hard to balance human needs with the needs of other species. Personally, I resent your casual, callous remark about the City caring more about Burrowing Owls. I believe we should all be concerned with human needs as well as the needs of our wildlife……in tandem. Shame on you for disparaging the hard won and fragile success of Burrowing Owls on Marco.

  2. Andrew tyler says:

    I quote: “Unfortunately, it seems we think more about burrowing owls than access for our elderly or handicapped”.
    I’m not sure who the “we” are in this quote. There are code enforcement duties related to burrowing owls, similarly there are requirements for construction. Examining plans, checking for code compliance and inspecting work in progress clearly lies with the developer and especially the City government. Who made the decision to remove this access, and where in the process did that occur ? Were the businesses consulted ?
    “We” think about burrowing owls; we also expect that those charged with the task of ensuring compliance with ADA are up to the task.

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