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St. Pete Beach focusing on Corey Avenue
City is working with the Regional Planning Council on a strategy
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ST. PETE BEACH – City officials are forming a vision for the Corey Avenue business district, drawing from efforts undertaken by other revitalized downtown areas in the state.

St. Pete Beach Planning and Community Development Director George Kinney and Commissioner Lorraine Huhn attended the Florida Redevelopment Association’s annual conference in October.

“It really hit the nail on the head. The theme of it was small town, big town redevelopment strategies that work,” Kinney said at the City Commission’s Jan. 22 meeting.

Kinney said he benefited from learning about expedited administrative approvals for redevelopment areas and relaxed regulatory standards, among other strategies. He visited community development areas such as in New Smyrna Beach, where city officials took vacant space and turned it into a six-unit artist’s loft.

“The artists can paint there and sell there,” Kinney said. “They really helped to kind of rejuvenate that area. Some cafes opened up across the street right after that and really started to turn that street around.”

The city is working with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and seeking input from other entities on its plans. Kinney hopes to have a TBRPC retail consultant make a presentation in ensuing weeks on how to improve the Corey Avenue area and Eighth Avenue in Pass-A-Grille.

Kinney said city officials will be meeting with county officials to discuss the steps necessary to establish a Community Redevelopment Agency, which has powers to acquire, develop and dispose of property, construct streets, parks and other public improvements and rehabilitate buildings. There were more than 140 CRAs in Florida as of 2010.

As part of the process, officials will be “identifying incentives to motivate property owners and merchants,” Kinney said.

He said the areas he visited didn’t have strengths the Corey Avenue district has and that the city has an opportunity to make improvements.

“These are special areas, and they deserve a special kind of development. I don’t think we want to settle for a McDonald’s on Corey Avenue,” Kinney said. “I think we want to be really focused on design and streetscapes and infrastructure improvements and how they are going to fit together and start to develop over the life of a project.”

In March of 2005 the community redevelopment area was approved as an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Two months later, a report said that the area encompasses 248.25 acres, with 71 percent of the structures built prior to 1971 and only 6 percent after 1990.

City commissioners were pleased with the update and encouraged staff to have workshops with the public. They will look at partnerships and “strike teams” to accomplish goals.

“I think this is one, if I can be bold to say, one of the most positive presentations we have had – talking about moving our city forward because we have been so stagnant for so long,” Commissioner Beverly Garnett said. “And your numbers here – 6 percent new buildings after. I don’t think we all realize it was quite that low. This is just incredibly exciting for our city.”

A plan is expected to be completed in May.

“Our time is coming,” Huhn said.
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