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Gulfport, St. Petersburg partner up to boost 49th Street businesses

Gulfport and St. Petersburg have long shared the headaches associated with their common border along 49th Street S.

Now the two cities are making an effort to show off another side of the thoroughfare — its potential to support local businesses.

The cities have begun working together and sharing information to drum up interest in the commercial properties that line the corridor.

The effort's kickoff event, the 49th Street Celebration, has been sponsored by both cities and the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce and will allow proprietors from both cities to showcase their business, along the Tangerine Avenue Parkway in Gulfport.

"We're looking at both sides of 49th Street," said Paul Stellrecht, economic development coordinator for St. Petersburg. "We're not looking at the double yellow line and were not looking at the different municipalities. If a business opens in St. Petersburg, it helps Gulfport and vice versa."

Stellrecht has been working with businesses along 49th Street as part of the city's initiative to revitalize the Childs Park neighborhood, which borders the roadway to the east. He said the city has beautification plans for its side of the street.

For Gulfport, a town that has benefited from a booming art scene and downtown waterfront district, focusing on the 49th Street business district seems a natural progression. The city has already completed a beautification program and revamping of the Tangerine Avenue Parkway.

"Downtown Gulfport is pretty much saturated already and that's the next thing to do," said Lori Rosso, president of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has been working with the city to help organize the 49th Street Celebration in May and has plans for a Realtors tour of the development ready properties.

But revitalizing the area comes with its own set of challenges.

The businesses on 49th Street, from the Pinellas Trail to 22nd Avenue S, have previously complained about a lack of cooperation between the cities' police districts and suffered from the area's stigma as a hot spot for robberies and drug dealing.

The area also took a hit in February when Gulfport's only major supermarket, a Winn-Dixie, closed.

Gulfport Mayor Mike Yakes has been a vocal supporter of the 49th Street district.

He hopes that with St. Petersburg's help, the city will be able to provide a safe atmosphere for business owners and capitalize on the traffic that moves through the thoroughfare.

"I want to see businesses actually survive and be successful, and open their doors without the fear of loitering or robbery," Yakes said.

With continued efforts Stellrecht thinks more businesses like the recently opened Banyan Scapes, a full service nursery and garden center, will begin to appear.

The nursery's owners, Lissa and Stefan Kaschkadayev, moved to their new location at 932 49th St. S, from Haines Road.

There is still plenty of crime in the area, but the neighborhood has been receptive and they are much happier at the new location, Stefan Kaschkadayev said.

"I think the more the city does for the area the better the situation will become," he said. "I've always believed if you do something good for the area, the people who live in the area will accept it."

Nick Johnson can be reached at or 893-8361.

Gulfport, St. Petersburg partner up to boost 49th Street businesses 04/26/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 26, 2008 4:33am]
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