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.