AIDS Healthcare Foundation's 'Out of the Closet' Thrift Store Pays $90K to City for Crosswalk on Wilton Drive

Saturday, December 22, 2007 General News
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Crosswalk Could Help Reduce Speed, Improve Safety Conditions Along Notoriously Dangerous Stretch of Road

WILTON MANORS, Fla., Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a move that could go a long way toward improving safety along a dangerous stretch of Wilton Drive, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), operator of the 'Out of the Closet' Thrift Stores, has paid $90,000 to the City of Wilton Manors for the installation of a crosswalk on Wilton Drive, in front of Hagen Park. Part of an eighteen-store chain that is the nation's largest retail fundraising vehicle for HIV/AIDS medical care and research, the Wilton Manors 'Out of the Closet' is scheduled to open at 2097 Wilton Drive in January 2008.

The $90,000 contribution for the crosswalk comes at a time when Wilton Manors city officials are in talks with the Florida Department of Transportation to improve safety along Wilton Drive. Area business owners and residents have been lobbying the City for some time to improve safety conditions on that road --- the site of numerous serious accidents. Community efforts for traffic calming in Wilton Manors have intensified in recent months after a pedestrian was struck and killed this past November crossing Dixie Highway at Five Points intersection -- just three weeks after another pedestrian was critically injured crossing an extension of Wilton Drive, NE Fourth Avenue.

"Particularly in light of recent serious traffic incidents in the area, we are pleased to announce this payment of $90,000 to the City for the installation of a crosswalk on Wilton Drive," said Matt LaMariana, District Manager-Florida, 'Out of the Closet' Thrift Stores. "As the community has rallied together to address the issue of traffic calming, it is our hope that this much-needed crosswalk will not only help make the area more pedestrian-friendly, benefiting all of the businesses on the south side of Wilton Drive, but also play a critical role in accelerating the process of improving the safety and quality of life for all of those who work in, live in and visit this area."

Though the crosswalk installation falls under the jurisdiction of the City, Wilton Drive itself is a state road and, thus, decisions regarding changes to it rest with the state. According to a recent Express Gay News article ("Local Gay Resident Killed Crossing Street in Wilton Manors," By Juan Carlos Rodriguez), in response to community concerns City officials met with the Florida Department of Transportation regarding traffic calming options. However, officials failed to see eye-to-eye on potential solutions at that meeting. Since all changes to Wilton Drive are subject to State approval, the traffic safety situation will remain as it is until State and City officials can come to an agreement.

"The installation of a crosswalk on Wilton Drive is long-overdue," said Kate Walsh, owner of We're Everywhere, a clothing store and gift shop located at 2041 Wilton Drive, near the site of the proposed crosswalk. "I'm excited about any improvements that will make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. With four lanes of traffic and cars flying by at high speeds, Wilton Drive is very difficult -- even dangerous -- to cross. I've long wondered how many more people will be hit or killed before action would be taken. A crosswalk will be 100% beneficial to Wilton Manors business-owners and residents alike."

The Express Gay News article detailed the growing concern in the community about traffic safety issues and solutions proposed by local groups to improve the situation -- including installing more crossing signals: "Main Street Wilton Manors, WMBA [Wilton Manors Business Association] and other neighborhood associations met Oct. 29 to present public officials and residents ideas for making the downtown area safer for pedestrians. Among the ideas proposed was implementing

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