PINELLAS PARK – In the mid-1980s, Pinellas Park was a very different place than it is today, said former Mayor Bill Mischler, who sat on the City Council at the time.
Dirt roads prevailed in a number of neighborhoods, and drives through these areas revealed numerous homes with cars propped up on cement blocks, Mischler said.
“It was trash,” he added.
The city’s business corridors weren’t any better, said Cecil Bradbury, who served as mayor from 1981 to 1998. Buildings were unkempt and many property owners were lazy about landscaping their land.
“We felt some of the businesses were being derelict,” he said.
So the council decided something needed to change, especially if the city wanted to draw larger businesses and corporations to the area.
“When people drive through our community, we wanted them to have a very positive experience. That was our goal,” Bradbury said. “If we got something done that created a positive image of our community, then these other major companies would say, OK, we want to be a part of that.”
Just years earlier, the city of Bradenton revamped its image in an attempt to draw more development. So the council invited its mayor, Bill Evers, to speak at a meeting, Bradbury said.
“He talked to us about setting goals of the community,” he said.
The city targeted a section of its downtown in need of revitalization and new investment. In May 1988, the council passed Resolution 88-7 acknowledging the need for the city’s core to be revamped and rejuvenated and supported the creation of a Community Redevelopment District.
The plan then went to the county for approval. In November of that year, the Pinellas County Commission approved Resolution 88-496, providing the city with the power to create the district. Before the year was over, the council passed Resolution No. 88-76, creating the Pinellas Park Community Redevelopment Agency, the Pinellas Park Redevelopment District and the Tax Increment Finance District to address the necessary changes within the district.
This area, encompassing around 1,339 aces, extends along the east-west Park Boulevard corridor from 34th Street on the east to 67th Street on the west, and also includes the area between 78th Avenue and 70th Avenue to the north and south, respectively, and along 49th Street stretching from 86th Avenue to the north to 62nd Avenue.
“I think we have one of the biggest ones in the county,” Mischler said.
The council, which also serves as the Community Redevelopment Agency, has used a number of means to improve conditions within the district, including planning, redevelopment, historic preservation and affordable housing.
Supporting new business has been key, Mischler said. Businesses have enjoyed tax benefits of being a part of the district and the city has offered façade grants to companies within the area. The city also changed zoning within the area to make it easier for businesses to move in.
“It’s been really beneficial for businesses,” he said. “There was a lot of development during my watch.”
He added, “It took a few years to build it. It wasn’t overnight. But it has helped a lot in that whole area. We got a lot of new businesses. Oh man, people came to Pinellas Park that never would have come to Pinellas Park. We have restaurants galore in this place and they’re still coming.”
This is the first story in a monthly series exploring the history of Pinellas Park’s Community Redevelopment District, which encompasses approximately 1,339 acres.