The City of Longwood will use a $422,000 grant from the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to redesign a big project near its SunRail station. The station will have what is called "The Heritage Project" nearby, a mix of retail and residential.
The problem is that the old design does not include connections to pedestrian walkways and bike paths. Longwood Community Development Director Sheryl Bower says it is important to connect people if they are considering riding the train.
"We're looking at how to make Longwood more walkable. How to provide connections to the SunRail station, to the hospital, to our employers, to our residents."
When you ask people at Longwood's central shopping center what they think about thousands of dollars of tax money going to study the concept, we found no support among the few we asked.
"I've never used the trail other than a few times," said Jan. "My big concern is just about the whole SunRail thing is who's going to use it and how are you going to get there, so I don't know. I think it's maybe a waste. I think the whole thing is a waste."
Brittany agrees. "I don't think it's worth it. There's not much around here, like attraction wise, to attract people to come here in the first place, so they should be using it towards other things, like the roads around here are terrible, and they could be using it towards that."
The city does have plans for the roadways downtown, around State Road 427, where SunRail will stop, but no money to study bike connections. Sheryl Bower says that's why help from HUD is so important.
"We're looking at over $422,000 worth of design services that we can't do in house. We would have to go out and pay somebody to do that anyway, so this is really helpful that the federal government has been able to come in and help us with this so we can move a lot further in implementing the final designs faster."
Bower wants Longwood to transform into having a more vibrant and friendly downtown.
"The more businesses, the more things you bring in to your city, the more amenities you have for your residents, the more likely you are to bring other businesses in to help with the tax base, so that you can even provide more."
Other communities around Central Florida are also getting grants for SunRail studies. HUD has approved $2.4 million in tax money that will go to cities and counties with stops. The train will begin service in 2014.