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Imperial Beach shopping district getting a makeover

Palm Avenue improvement projects to revive city's economic center

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The first of two projects to improve Imperial Beach's most traveled thoroughfare, Palm Avenue, which runs east to west through the city and connects to the Silver Strand's Highway 75, are now under way. Construction on the Palm Avenue street-end improvement project, at the west terminus of the street, began earlier this summer with the relocation of a glass mosaic wall art piece that once stood at the sand's edge. A second project, streetscape improvements of Palm Avenue between Seacoast Drive and Third Street, began just a few weeks later.

The street-end project plans call for the creation of a pedestrian-friendly cul-de-sac plaza with seating, improved beach access, landscaping and public art. The pinnacle of the project will be "The Spirit of Imperial Beach," an 18-foot sculpture by artist A. Wasil. In addition to the improved beach access for individuals with disabilities and emergency vehicles, the project will also reduce the amount of urban water runoff that reaches the ocean by means of a new storm drain pump station with built-in diversion system.

"The street-end project will create a beautiful and utilitarian space for people to not only enjoy the ocean but have better access to the beach," said Greg Wade, community development director for the city. "It will also serve a higher purpose of providing an enhanced level of beachfront safety and lessen the impact of storm water runoff."

Groundbreaking on the street-end project took place in July and the expected completion date is January.

The latest Palm Avenue undertaking is a streetscape project that will reconstruct and enhance a three-block area known as Old Palm between Seacoast Drive and Third Street. The nearly $1.2 million project includes an outdoor surfboard museum, wider sidewalks, pedestrian-oriented lighting, landscaping and traffic calming measures with intersection bulb-outs at Third and Second streets. The pedestrian improvements cover approximately 2,400 linear feet. Expected to be complete by November, the project is being funded by a $1 million Smart Growth Grant and by Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency's Bond Funds.

As part of Imperial Beach's redevelopment district, the city has further plans to improve and redevelop Palm Avenue from Seventh to 13th streets to make it a more consumer and pedestrian-friendly main street. Goals of the redevelopment district are to establish specific streetscape improvements that will include mixed-use and commercial/retail development opportunities that will ultimately transform the commercial corridor of Imperial Beach into a dynamic business district.

"We hope to build a business and family-friendly environment along Palm Avenue that is not only designed with pedestrians in mind but also will improve traffic flow," said Jerry Selby, the city's redevelopment coordinator. "The future new and improved Palm Avenue commercial district will connect with the areas of Old Palm Avenue now currently undergoing improvements. One day we hope Palm Avenue will become the central hub for shopping, dining and entertainment from end to end."

For more information on the Palm Avenue improvement projects, contact the city of Imperial Beach Redevelopment Coordinator Jerry Selby at (619) 424-2226 or visit the city's Web site at www.cityofib.com.

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