PINELLAS PARK — Council members here are so thrilled by the progress of their "business incubator" that they've agreed to buy 11 more lots to expand it.
The idea behind the so-called incubator is for Pinellas Park to provide city-owned property at below-market rents to startups and other small businesses to help them get established. Once established, those entrepreneurs will move elsewhere in Pinellas Park to make room for the next baby business.
In developing the incubator, the City Council has focused on a few blocks in the center of the city's redevelopment area just east of Park Station, the city-owned reproduction train station at 5851 Park Blvd. The immediate area is also home to other city buildings including the Police Department, Auditorium and Senior Center.
This year, Pinellas Park paid about $650,000 to buy seven of the 10 lots on the north side of the 5600 block of Park. Officials wanted to buy the entire block, but three owners — Bottles Pub, chiropractor James Strubbe and council member Rick Butler — held out. That's just a block east of the United Cottages area, a small development a block off Park, where the city owns two lots.
The 11 new lots — nine parcels — council members have agreed to buy are located there. They've agreed to pay $350,000 plus closing costs to owner Nancy Hawkins. That's a bit more than the appraised market value of about $334,000. The lots are in the 5700 blocks of 75th Terrace and 75th Avenue N.
Developing the area has been a longtime dream of Pinellas Park officials. Butler, in particular, has long been an advocate of creating a business incubator.
And, though the incubator is barely off the ground, officials say they're getting lots of interest from the business and education communities.
They've rented the two houses they already own in the United Cottages area. One is rented to Rick Incorvia, owner of Sign Doctor in Odessa. Incorvia, brother of Pinellas Park planner Joe Incorvia, wanted a more central location to be nearer his customers. He'll live upstairs in the house and run his business on the ground floor.
The other has been rented to an artist, who will also live upstairs and work on the ground floor.
This month, the council agreed to rent the former Dolphin Plumbing building, 5681 Park Blvd., to another artist. Vincent Pompei will have a 10-year lease on the building, paying $550 a month rent for the first five years. Starting in the sixth year, he'll pay $600 a month, which will increase each year by $50 a month until he's paying $800 a month in year 10. Pompei will renovate the building to suit his needs. He will not live there.
It's unclear how Pinellas Park will handle the rentals of the new properties.
"We're going to examine the existing properties to see what condition they're in and what they could be used for," city spokesman Tim Caddell said.
But it's likely Pinellas Park will be somewhat flexible about listening to proposals from prospective renters because the whole idea behind the incubator is to encourage creativity and risk taking.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.