St. Pete makes plan to preserve Central Ave. district

Image 1 of 2

Not long ago, Michael Griffin was visiting St. Petersburg and took a stroll down Central Avenue in downtown.

He immediately fell in love with the area's small business vibe, so he made a decision. He picked up and moved so he could open a shop – Atlas Body Home.

“It’s just cute here,” Griffin said. “It’s old-town America in a way.”

The Central Avenue area of downtown has exploded in popularity, and developers have taken notice. 

That's created concern that big chain restaurants and stores could move in and drive out the mom and pop style shops who make the avenue special.

“You’ll have the same stores everywhere,” Griffin said. “You go to the next neighborhood and it’s the same stores.”

The city has vowed, however, to protect the Central Avenue district's charm. Last week, council passed the Storefront Conservation Corridor Plan. 

It imposes design requirements for stores on Beach Drive and Central Avenue, up to 31st Street. If a developer wants to put a chain store or franchise in those areas, the store would have to blend in with the small business vibe.

The plan also sets up grant funds eligible to businesses that meet certain design requirements.

“As you’re walking along the street you’re not seeing an entire city block that is one business,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

Nearly two years ago Mayor Kriseman announced that he wanted to ban chains altogether on Central and Beach but walked that back, saying it wasn’t legally feasible.

During Thursday’s council meeting, some council members expressed concerns the new ordinance would scare away developers, and wanted more time to study potential impacts.

Griffin says the ordinance isn’t enough, but it’s better than nothing.

“I think they could do more,” he said. “Make it as tough as possible.”