St. Petersburg artists' enclave plan gets backing

George Medeiros, left, and Scott Durfee create abstract sculptures and handbags from spathe, a palm bloom’s casing. They hope the enclave plan passes, making it easier for artists to do business at home.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

George Medeiros, left, and Scott Durfee create abstract sculptures and handbags from spathe, a palm bloom’s casing. They hope the enclave plan passes, making it easier for artists to do business at home.

ST. PETERSBURG — A proposed ordinance could make it easier for local artists to work and conduct business in their homes.

The regulation allowing the creation of artists' enclaves in certain areas of the city has drawn support from the artistic community and the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

"I think it fits right in with St. Petersburg as a city of the arts,'' CONA president Will Michaels said.

"It is sort of creating a whole creative arts environment,'' City Council member Jeff Danner said. "It's one thing to have a Dalí Museum. It's another thing to encourage artists to create art and work in their garage.''

The ordinance is meant to encourage a mix of small-scale, home-based businesses that support the visual, performing and cultural arts, while maintaining the character of residential neighborhoods. Those who support the creation of the special districts speak of them as a potential marketing tool, an economic generator and a haven for artists.

"The artists' enclave initiative encourages working artists and nurtures artists who actually live here,'' said Tim Martin, president of the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association.

The idea first surfaced with St. Petersburg's Vision 2020 plan, adopted by the city in 2002. It began to take form in 2007, when the city adopted its new land development regulations, but the Pinellas Planning Council later discovered inconsistencies with countywide rules. Changes have subsequently been incorporated into the ordinance, which is scheduled for a final reading on Thursday.

The push for the special designation, referred to officially as an artist enclave overlay district, has come mainly from the Historic Kenwood and Old Southeast neighborhood associations.

"It's brought two communities together, working on a common goal,'' said Scott Durfee, a sculptor who lives in the Old Southeast, an area that's home to about 85 artists.

"We spent several hours working on every single detail on what we would like to permit in this artists' enclave,'' Martin said. "We see the artists' enclave as a nice example of citizens coming together to influence local government to act for the benefit of the community. The ideas for this initiative came from the bottom and moved up.''

Derek Kilborn, a planner with the city, said residents would have to apply for the special designation, going through the same procedures required for a rezoning application.

"There are really two parts related to the application process that were designed to create a high bar and are there to protect neighborhood residents,'' he said. "Any application must include letters or signatures of support from at least two-thirds of the property owners within the boundary that is being proposed.''

Secondly, said Kilborn, while there is no restriction governing how large a district can be, there are limits about how small it can be.

"The purpose for establishing a minimum (size) was to protect the homeowners who may not support the overlay district. In this case, they have to include a whole block," he said.

Under current regulations, homeowners can operate businesses in their homes, but are not allowed to see customers on the property. An exception is made for instructors who provide individual educational classes, such as music teachers. While the new artists' enclaves will generally allow customers, they will be limited to only four a day and can visit by appointment only.

Martin, the Historic Kenwood president, said details relating to the proposed districts were meticulously discussed by a Historic Kenwood and Old Southeast committee. Additionally, he said, the group got feedback from the broader arts community to be sure it came up with a blueprint that was palatable to everyone.

"The underlying zoning rules are not really affected when it comes to noise and other sorts of things. We're just enhancing a few things here and there to create a haven for artists,'' said Martin, who works from home managing a technical writing team for a software company.

Realtor Jim Longstreth, former president of the Grand Central District, which borders Historic Kenwood, is enthusiastic about the proposal.

"Historic Kenwood has a lot of artists. We see it as an economic generator for these artists,'' he said.

A nearby enclave could be a boost for Grand Central, he said. Eventually, home-based artists could decide to show their wares in galleries in the Grand Central District, bringing more people to the area for shopping and dining, Longstreth said.

Danner said the concept also would work well in other central St. Petersburg neighborhoods such as Palmetto Park and the Dome Industrial District.

Old Southeast Neighborhood artists are looking forward to passage of the new ordinance, Durfee said.

"It would be a wonderful thing to happen in our community,'' he said. "To have the ability to work out of my home, show out of my home, is really a good thing."

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

St. Petersburg artists' enclave plan gets backing 12/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 2:31pm]

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