By summer’s end a new road connecting State Road 434 to Tuskawilla Road should be open to help clear out traffic near the Winter Springs Town Center. But it has some Town Center merchants worried that the road will lesson their exposure to passersby.
Named for a former city commissioner, Michael Blake Boulevard will wrap from 434 southeast of the center to meet Tuskawilla at the entrance of the Winter Springs Village subdivision. It’s more than halfway complete, with construction finishing up this month.
“It’s always been an important roadway in the master plans for the center that have been in the works for over a decade,” City Engineer Brian Fields said.
He said the road is designed to help clear up traffic congestion that builds up on Tuskawilla Road into the Winter Springs Town Center, particularly during rush hours and at times of Winter Springs High School arrival and dismissal. He said it can also help cater to the influx of new residents in the Winter Springs Village as construction continues.
“I know residents back there are eager to have the road on line,” Fields said. The subdivision’s developer, Meritage Homes, has already completed half of the road from the Village to the Cross Seminole Trail crossing. The remaining half from the trail crossing to 434 is being completed by the city, costing $255,000, paid for by funds garnered by the second-generation one-cent sales tax.
Mayor Charles Lacey said that though the area around the city’s half of the road is currently undeveloped wetlands, in the long term, the area and Michael Blake Boulevard will play a central role in the future development of the Winter Springs Town Center.
Murphy’s Premium Pet Food Market is one of the two open businesses on the eastside of the Town Center facing Tuskawilla, storeowner Kimberly Kalander said. Though she doesn’t know for sure if the road will impact her business, she said that the city should focus on reinvigorating businesses in the existing center before branching out.
“I’ve watched 14 other businesses go out of business over here since I’ve been here in the past five years,” Kalander said. Nearly all the shop fronts neighboring her business are empty, with tacked up “For Lease” signs in the windows.
She said the thought of traffic decreasing by her business, though beneficial to those stuck in it, limits a vital part of what drives people into her shop.
“You need people driving by,” she said. “You need people to know you’re here.”
Though without major changes, Kalander is less hopeful for businesses that aren’t as strong as hers. Lacey said the city is working to try and find ways to increase exposure for the existing businesses. He said he is hopeful that as the economy starts to recover, so will commerce in the Town Center.
For residents who frequently travel the roads, Fields said in the coming weeks they should see little-to-no traffic interruption as the road is completed. One lane of 434 will be closed midday for a handful of days in July while workers open the median for turning access onto the boulevard.
“We hope the road will ultimately relieve traffic on 434 and Tuskawilla and ultimately facilitate economic development out east from the (Town) Center,” Fields said.