GULFPORT — The 49th Street Redevelopment District will be discussed at a public hearing at 1 p.m. today at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater.
The hearing is to discuss zoning changes in the redevelopment district, which encompasses 131 acres west of 49th Street between Gulfport Boulevard and the Pinellas Trail. The changes are part of the 49th Street Corridor plan developed by the city in 2000.
Similar zoning changes have already been approved in the Waterfront Redevelopment District that flanks Beach Boulevard south of 28th Avenue S.
"Gulfport wants to add things property owners can do with their property," Mike Crawford, Pinellas County planning manager in charge of the project, said.
There are three main areas of change, Crawford said.
The some 500 houses that are zoned residential will be zoned mixed use, allowing homeowners to have businesses in their homes.
The 75-100 commercial buildings, many of which are storage buildings, along 49th Street will be rezoned to allow housing units to be added to the buildings — like putting apartments on the second floor over a business, Crawford said.
It will make affordable housing available there, Mayor Mike Yakes said.
The zoning along Tangerine Avenue will be changed to allow the construction of low intensity commercial and office buildings.
The changes have been approved by Gulfport but must be approved by the county before they can take effect.
"All local plans must be consistent with the countywide plan," Crawford said.
"Even though these changes are relatively innocuous, sometimes cities want to do things like change density levels or other things that the county wants to keep uniform," Crawford said.
The particular area was chosen for redevelopment, according to the 2000 plan, because it is "characterized by blighted conditions such as deteriorating structures, poor site development of commercial properties, inadequate numbers of sidewalks and roadway curbing, crime, dumping of trash, poor maintenance of residential and commercial properties and lack of vegetative landscaping."
There are some 7 miles of roadway in the district but only 27 percent have barrier curbing and 39 percent of the roads have accompanying sidewalks, creating pedestrian and traffic hazards, according to the 2000 plan.
The plan is meant to correct deficiencies and increase property values.
"What it means is that a homeowner who is in financial distress can say, 'Gee, maybe I can start a business and save my house,' or a business owner can say, 'Gee, maybe I can add some apartments and save my business,' " Yakes said.
The city hopes to find funding sources for low-interest loans to improve the area.
"There is no money earmarked but the possibilities look good. I feel optimistic we will be able to get some money from the county or residents can certainly apply for a small business loan," Yakes said.
"Hey, doing anything is better than standing still," Yakes said.