ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Developers are making plans for St. Pete’s old police headquarters, which officers plan to vacate later this year.
St. Pete leaders are asking for proposals now for the soon-to-be vacant police station between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue North.
In the works: a mixed-use building with retail, office space, apartments, possibly even a hotel and a parking garage.
Yet nearby businesses owners are nervous, telling ABC Action News they fear new development could push them out of town.
Rent prices have already doubled in St. Pete's Edge District and throughout the downtown area.
Illene Sofranko owns Urban Canning Company on nearby Fourth Street and says her rent has more than doubled. She says she doesn't blame her landlord, who purchased the building at a much higher price and is simply trying to cover her bases. Instead she says large-scale developments are pushing up prices and pushing out local businesses and long-time residents.
“We almost went out of business over the summer because of increasing rent prices and I’m not the only one. I know of a lot of other businesses that have had to get loans in order to stay alive here,” Sofranko said with a sigh.
In 2018 alone, St. Pete issued 34,000 construction permits.
Businesses desperately hope as the city grows, it won’t squash the local vibe.
“It's bittersweet," said Teresa Ross, who owns Milagros Soap Company on Central Avenue. "Businesses have changed hands, a lot of buildings have changed hands, there's been a lot of growth. Growth is good but it's going to change things.”
Ross and Sofranko say they can hardly recognize the quaint town they started their businesses in.
“We used to be called the retirement city, the place people come to die, now everyone is moving here." Sofranko said.
Development at the nearby Tropicana Field site could also hike up nearby rent prices.
“We’ve all put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making our businesses thrive and this community thrive. For us, we have an emotional attachment,” Ross explained.
Both business owners hope St. Pete recognizes the importance of local businesses as the city continues to explode in popularity.