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St. Armands seeks landscaping upgrade

St. Armands Circle property owners want to change the way the city maintains medians in the area. Will that be enough to enhance the look of the district?

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 4, 2017
St. Armands stakeholders want to improve the landscaping in the commercial district.
St. Armands stakeholders want to improve the landscaping in the commercial district.
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Dissatisfied with the city’s work managing the landscape in medians around St. Armands Circle, the St. Armands Business Improvement District came up with a simple solution for how they’d like the situation handled.

“Let’s just get the money ourselves and control it ourselves,” BID Chairman Gavin Meshad said. “I think we can manage that better.”

After months of negotiations with city staff, the BID is ready to ask the City Commission for its blessing to take over the responsibility of maintaining the median landscaping. The city would provide $72,000 annually to the BID to fund the maintenance, and spend another $80,000 as a one-time expense to restore the current landscaping.

In 2012, the BID helped fund a $450,000 median improvement project. The city was responsible for maintaining the enhanced landscaping, but since then, the quality of the plants and trees has degraded, according to former BID Chairman Marty Rappaport.

Rappaport plans to present the proposed agreement to the commission at its May 15 meeting. If approved, the BID would seek a vendor for maintaining the landscaping in time for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Although the BID agrees the current level of maintenance is lacking, the board was split on whether the proposed agreement would produce the results that Circle stakeholders want. Board member Michael Valentino, the owner of Island Pursuit, questioned whether the BID would end up investing tens of thousands of dollars of its own money to bring the landscape maintenance up to an acceptable standard.

Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, said the merchant group was more concerned about improving the landscaping along the sidewalks.

“All I know is, the Circle looks old,” Corrigan said. “It looks tired. It’s not the medians where we look old and tired. We look old and tired sidewalk-to-curb.”

Corrigan agreed that the BID could likely do a better job managing the median landscaping than the city has, but she encouraged the group to consider how it could improve the area by the sidewalks — which property owners are responsible for maintaining, not the city.

Despite any reservations, Meshad is confident assuming responsibility for the medians is the right move for the BID. Any agreement would allow the BID to return the responsibility to the city if things don’t go well — so, he reasoned, the group has nothing to lose.

“Let’s try to control our own destiny with this,” Meshad said. “If it doesn’t work, we punt it back.”


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