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Pinellas' Ridgecrest area targeted for revitalization

Pinellas County Commissioners recently approved the purchase of Gus’s Bar in the Ridgecrest area. Neighbors remember owner Gus McCrea fondly, but say they’ll welcome a new home there.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Pinellas County Commissioners recently approved the purchase of Gus’s Bar in the Ridgecrest area. Neighbors remember owner Gus McCrea fondly, but say they’ll welcome a new home there.

The faded peach and yellow bar on Gooden Crossing has been closed for three years.

Nearby, there are a few tidy homes with manicured lawns, decorative sculptures and fresh mulch. But a restaurant next door appears vacant. And some other homes on the street are ragged and neglected.

"Everything's dying," said neighbor Alfred Lee Mitchell, 71.

Pinellas County leaders want to turn that around. Last week, they okayed a contract to buy Gus's Bar as part of a bigger plan to revitalize the Ridgecrest area and build about 10 new single-family homes.

The county owns eight other parcels in the Baskins neighborhood. Five are on Gooden Crossing and three others are on two nearby streets.

The county plans to buy the bar at 1263 Gooden Crossing for $87,250. The money will come from Community Development Block Grant funds, which are generally targeted toward blighted areas.

Over the past couple of years, the county has met with residents to see what they want in their neighborhood, said Bruce Bussey, urban development manager with the county's Community Development Department.

The community has mostly single-family homes and residents wanted more homes because "some of those former businesses don't fit with the nature of the community," Bussey said.

The 850-square-foot bar sits on a quarter of an acre, just west of the Pinellas Trail and north of Ulmerton Road.

The bar will be demolished soon, Bussey said. And by the end of the year, the county plans to seek proposals to build one new home there and nine others nearby. Several will be affordable, he said.

The county also plans to widen the street and add a sidewalk that will lead to the Pinellas Trail, Bussey said.

Gus's Bar closed after owner Gus McCrea, 78, died in January 2005.

"Everybody liked him," said Mitchell, who used to hang out there.

And neighbor James Dolden, 80, used to play pool at Gus's.

"It was a nice place," Dolden said.

But it would be fine if a new home replaced the vacant bar, he said. After all, he said, "It's just sitting there."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 445-4155.

Pinellas' Ridgecrest area targeted for revitalization 09/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 12:13pm]
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