St. Pete mayor wants to designate Central Avenue as a small-business-only corridor

Mayor Kriseman unveiling Independent Corridor Plan
Posted at 5:24 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 17:24:10-04

Hoping to protect the charm and character of St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue, Mayor Rick Kriseman is announcing today a proposal called the “Independent Corridor Plan.”

The ordinance would designate Central Avenue as a place where only small and independently-owned businesses can open from now on.

Many people love St. Pete’s Central Avenue because it is filled with small, locally-owned businesses.

Recently, however, with Central Avenue going through what many are calling a “renaissance,” property owners have been raising the rents on the small business owners, making it challenging for many of them to make ends meet.

“We’ve been here for about 6, 7 years. We’ve seen the traffic increase. We’ve seen the Renaissance,” Ken Meles tells ABC Action News.

Meles owns and operates Sleeperwoods, a small shop along the Central Avenue strip, where the price of doing business is going up as there area increases in popularity.

“[Landlords] get people contacting them wanting spaces to rent. Everyone wants to be down here,” adds Meles.

Meles says he’s not yet at the point where he’s thinking about moving his business, but there are concerns among many in the St. Pete business community that, if those small business owners do one day decide to leave, then property owners will not be able to fill those lease spaces as easily.

“I think everyone has the same goal, of keeping St. Pete cool,” says local business owner Tami Simms, with a smile. 

Simms is a local real estate agent and the President of the St. Pete Downtown Business Association and while she loves the Mayor’s intent, she’s concerned about unintended consequences.

Among her concerns are whether locally-owned and operated franchises, which are small businesses but not necessarily independent, would be affected by this new ordinance.

“We’re definitely supportive of supporting the character of the ‘Burg that we all love and people come to see, and so [the ordinance] just has to be a careful balance between preserving that character and not infringing on property rights,” Simms tells ABC Action News.

The proposed ordinance has yet to be made public until the announcement on Wednesday evening, but city leaders tell ABC Action News that existing franchises and chains along Central Avenue would be “grandfathered” in according to the proposal. 

Mayor Kriseman’s announcement is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. outside the Detroit Hotel Condos at 215 Central Avenue, afterwards the mayor will lead a “march” down Central Avenue to a celebration party at Punky’s Bar & Grill at 3063 Central Avenue. Transportation will be available to shuttle marches back to Central Avenue and 2nd Street.