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Repaving Downtown Eustis


Landscape Architecture by AECOM





The town of Eustis, Fla., transformed its downtown area with about two acres of new streetscapes, renovating the commercial and retail district with two-way streets that include wider sidewalks, parallel parking, flush curb pedestrian crossings, tile mosaics and an expanded tree canopy.


Eustis is one of several towns in Lake County, Fla., that dates back to the 1870s, a post-Civil War era when settlers moved southward into the Florida frontier. Eustis is named for Col. Abraham Eustis, who served in the U.S. Army in Florida during the early nineteenth century. Settlement at Eustis began in late 1875, with the arrival of several homesteaders, including A.S. Pendry, who became the postmaster of the Pendryville post office in 1877.

In 1879, Pendry platted 80 acres of his homestead as Pendryville; the name was soon changed to Lake Eustis, and then simply to Eustis.

 




Fifty-eight thousand square feet of new pavers surface Eustis's streets; access and mobility have been improved with a walking area for the retail stores. A larger, more sustainable planting environment with structural soils will allow trees to mature and provide shade downtown. Brick streets (Boral Bricks) and on‐street parking calm traffic, while street trees frame views of Ferran Park's Heron Fountain on Lake Eustis.



Before railroads reached central Florida, long distance travel and shipping relied on steamboats, and early settlements were concentrated along navigable waterways. Steamboats along the St. Johns River connected Eustis with Mellonville (today Sanford) and Jacksonville. In Eustis, a boat landing on the lake at the foot of Macdonald Avenue was the primary shipping point, establishing that street as a commercial corridor.

With the arrival of the St. Johns and Lake Eustis Railway in 1880, which replaced steamboats as the prevalent mode of transportation and shipping, Eustis grew into a small city with churches, stores, schools, a bank and a newspaper. Residents voted to incorporate Eustis in 1886.

 




Nutall oak trees were installed along the street, and Asiatic jasmine was used as the groundcover in the tree planters. New shops and restaurants have filled empty storefronts in downtown as a result of the new streetscapes. New infill development has moved in, providing housing, shopping and employment, improving the modern atmosphere downtown.



Citrus was a major industry in Eustis, though the Big Freeze of 1894-95 and 1898-99 devastated the citrus crop in Eustis and the surrounding areas. Despite this setback and subsequent freezes, the citrus industry continued to flourish, and Eustis became known as the "Orange Capital of the World." The United States Department of Agriculture even established a research station and laboratory in Eustis, which studied plant diseases and later pioneered research in the hybridization of citrus. In addition to the fruit and vegetables grown by local farmers, the town's economy included tourism. Hotels (the largest being the Ocklawaha Hotel), boating, parks, and clubs attracted visitors during the temperate winter months.

Seeing an opportunity to serve the tourist market, Frank Waterman of the Waterman Fountain Pen Company built the Fountain Inn, a first-rate hotel in downtown Eustis. The hotel opened in 1923 and operated until 1936, when the impact of the Great Depression forced the establishment to shut its doors. In 1937, Mr. Waterman turned the hotel over to a group of local doctors for use as a hospital, which became known as the Waterman Memorial Hospital in honor of its benefactor. Florida Hospital Waterman, as it is called today, operated in the heart of downtown Eustis for more than 65 years before relocating in 2004 to its current location on U.S. Hwy. 441.

 




Plantings of dwarf yaupon holly and agapanthus, flush corner ramps at street intersections, decorative bollards and historic architecture enrich the downtown's aesthetic. About 32,000 square feet of new paving was placed for sidewalks and brick furnishings, where visitors can find a bench and relax in the shade of a live oak.



Design And Implementation
The city of Eustis was revitalized for the 21st century with the addition of a new downtown streetscape. The city began with a citizen-driven master plan for the downtown district. This plan extended to the limits of the city boundaries and provided a platform for addressing emerging redevelopment opportunities, ensuring that the community would be served with a vibrant urban center that is walkable, safe and viable for thriving businesses.

The planning took about four months, included a community forum for residents to share their feelings about their community and what could make it a better place to live, work and do business in.

 




Wider sidewalks, shade, furniture (Victor Stanley), plantings, streetlights and on‐street parking have improved the shopping and outdoor dining experience. Nutall oak trees are used along this street, and live oaks are used at the main intersection corners.



Based on these discussions and previous visioning efforts, a mission statement was adopted: "Create a master plan that correlates the desired physical vision with market opportunities, desired public realm objectives, an adequate transportation system, good urban form, and appropriate land-use and regulatory principles, including strategic actions to achieve results."

The first result, and perhaps most dramatic capital project, is the new streetscape in downtown Eustis. The downtown conditions included unusual opposing one-way blocks, which were particularly dysfunctional for businesses. The modification had been made in decades past to support local stores, incorporating more angled parking in the very narrow rights-of-way. Along with the dysfunctional street network, the experience for the pedestrian was equally flawed. Problems included narrow sidewalks, unhealthy trees, broken and cracked concrete, doors to storefronts that were several inches higher than the sidewalk grade, and many aboveground and overhead utilities. Limited lighting downtown also made the urban environment unappealing after dark.

 




Tile mosaics are located at all four corners of Eustis St. and Magnolia Ave. These custom art installations celebrate the environmental, cultural, historical and social significance of the town.



Construction
Communication with the public continued through the six-month construction phase, and communication with business owners was critical during times of disturbance. During construction, weekly meetings were held with the city engineer and contractor that provided a two-week look ahead to avoid disruptions and inconveniences for local merchants and property owners.

Today, the streets of downtown Eustis have been rebuilt with about 90,000 square feet of new surfacing. The two-way streets include parallel parking, wider sidewalks, flush curb pedestrian crossings, art, and a healthy tree canopy. The project was only feasible with a long-term relationship between the city planners, the design team and the public.

 




AECOM's Jonathan Mugmon created tile mosaic artwork, using Eustis character imagery and water colored scenes to convey the flavor of the town. Full-size watercolor canvas boards were sent to Mexico for the creation of the mosaics.



This relationship helped many people overcome their fears of change and allowed them to become familiar with the design principles and get behind the renovations. No businesses were lost during construction, and the retailing environment is much more healthy than before. These improvements helped foster a rich and vibrant space for future retailers to open businesses and attract visitors to the downtown.

Outages of water, electric, gas, and communication utilities were scheduled at times convenient for the businesses, and the utilities were re-sited underground to hide the unsightly aboveground and overhead installations. Also, a weekly marketing piece was distributed by the city, the Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce, Eustis Main Street and the Daily Commercial. The Eustis community was well informed of the potential disruptions and scheduled events around down times during construction. These efforts were instrumental in the success of the businesses during the streetscape project, city officials said.

 




LED post top streetlights illuminate the streets downtown, while ambient light spills onto the sidewalks. A historic clock stands at the corner and marks a key intersection downtown. Utility outages were scheduled at convenient times for businesses, and the utilities were moved underground to eliminate unsightly aboveground and overhead installations.



Post Construction
Since the project's completion in October 2010, pedestrian traffic has increased and new businesses have opened in the historic downtown. Efforts by the city of Eustis to improve its downtown area have been recognized by a pair of awards from Florida Main Street. Eustis won an award for Outstanding Public Improvement, and Eustis Main Street won honors for Outstanding Image Campaign.

 




Minimizing disturbance to the town's businesses was extremely important, so the team mapped out a plan to rebuild one street section at a time. This plan was well received among the business community, and allowed the shops to be shut down only for a short amount of time.



______________________

Project Team
Owner
City of Eustis
Paul Berg, City Manager (ret.)
Dianne Kramer, City of Eustis Public Works
Rick Gierok, Project Manager

Design Team
Civil Engineering: GAI Consultants, Inc.
Electrical Engineering: Millward Engineering, Inc.
Irrigation Design: Quality By Design, Inc.
Landscape Architect: Michael Brown
Master Planning, Landscape Architecture, Wayfinding, Signage: AECOM
Urban Designer: John Paul Weesner

Construction Team
Construction Manager/General Contractor: Anglin Construction Company
Landscape and Irrigation Installation: Dora Landscape
Lighting and Electrical: Pace Electric, Inc.
Lighting and Signage Rep: The Veazy Group
Site Survey: Stevenot Survey

 




BEFORE:
Before construction began, the downtown area was comprised of narrow sidewalks, dying trees, angled parking, overhead utilities, poor lighting, ADA accessibility issues, poor storefront visibility from the street and pedestrian safety concerns. The streets, while quaint, were also constrained for shoppers by challenging one‐way access.



Vendors
Cast Stone: Castlestone
Lighting: Beacon
Paving: Boral Bricks, Wausau Tile
Plantings: Marshalls Tree Farm
Railings: King Metals
Signage: Beacon Products, Fossil Industries, Inc.
Site Furnishings: Creative Pipe, Inc.; Dero; Victor Stanley
Tile Mosaics: Kolorines of Mexico

 




SketchUp models illustrated the design intent of the proposed streetscape for the public. These 3-D models helped the public understand how the downtown area could look after construction. Street sections were redesigned to take full advantage of the existing right-of-ways.

 




Mid-block crossing at Magnolia Avenue links Harper's Alley and McCulloch's Alley. The Sylvester palms add interest and shade, giving the area aunique appearance. Coontie (zamia pumila), a native plant, provides an evergreen layer at the sidewalk level and a safe buffer at the bulb-outs.

 

 







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April 22, 2019, 11:50 am PDT

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