TARPON SPRINGS — As the race to finish the Meres Boulevard extension inches toward completion, the situation has reignited an old debate. Should Tarpon officials name the corridor that will connect Alt. 19 with U.S. Highway 19 Meres Boulevard or keep the Mango Street moniker that represents an important element of the city’s history on the east end of the road?
City commissioners addressed the issue Aug. 25, and following a brief discussion, agreed more public input would be needed before a final decision could be made.
“I spoke to (Annie Dabbs) and she wants to keep the name the way it is, Mango Street,” Mayor Chris Alahouzos said, referring to a letter from Dabbs, the head of the Rose Hill Cemetery Association.
The letter stated that “the name Mango is an important part of the history of the neighborhood. Mango Street is the gateway to Mango Circle, Mango Loop and a house of worship. Mango Street is important for the preservation because it provided a road to decent and affordable housing for the residents of Tarpon Springs and a house of worship.”
Noting the name was derived from the tropical mango trees that dotted the area after being imported from India, Dabbs’ letter continued, “It is the work of historic preservation to protect our voices and collective stories. I recommend the name of Mango Street remains the same as the city protects our history.”
With that, Alahouzos suggested holding a town hall meeting to get feedback from residents.
“Obviously, now we got the input from Miss Dabbs and she said she spoke to the neighbors there, but I think it’s good if we hear from the people, too,” he said.
While Vice Mayor Jacob Karr said he was in favor of seeking public input, he admitted he was “not a fan of having a street with multiple names on it,” adding, “I do feel that Meres should be the name from Florida Avenue to U.S. 19.”
Karr suggested adding a commemorative sign to “recognize the history” of Mango Street and he supported placing a plaque in honor of Dr. Themistocles Diamandis, a beloved family physician and longtime advocate of the Meres extension, somewhere along the route.
Commissioner Townsend Tarapani agreed with both ideas; however, Commissioner Connor Donovan said he would be happy to “leave things the way they are” by using both the Meres and Mango names. Commissioner Costa Vatikiotis concurred, stating he “didn’t have an issue with the street having two names like that to maintain the historical aspect of it.”
In light of the stalemate, the mayor reiterated his desire to gather input from those affected by the decision.
“They’re going to live in the area so I think it’s good to have their opinion,” Alahouzos said.
City Manager Mark LeCouris cautioned it could be tough to schedule a town hall meeting during the coronavirus crisis, especially with others already in the works, but he would work something out, while Planning Director Renea Vincent said they would “reach out to the community before we go any further.”
After the meeting, Alahouzos restated his desire to get public input on the subject.
“When I spoke to Miss Dabbs, she said the neighbors want to keep the same name, Mango Street, because of the history there, so I’d like to get everybody’s opinion,” he said by phone. “I don’t want us to change the name and people are unhappy. It’s their neighborhood.”
When asked what he would like to see happen, Alahouzos said he would be “OK” with naming the corridor Meres, “but I want to hear what people have to say. I want to get feedback and recommendations from the people first.”