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Businesses spruce up with help from city

(ran West edition)

Change sometimes occurs subtly, as it has in the center of the city.

Folks traveling along Park Boulevard might glance at Summers Mobile Home Park and notice that it looks better, but not know exactly why.

Or they might think the stamp shop farther down looks new for some reason that they can't immediately identify.

There is a reason for the double take. Some businesses are sprucing up with the help of a facade improvement program offered by the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.

Business owners are painting old buildings, putting up new awnings and installing new windows.

"It enabled me to do what I wanted to do when I couldn't afford it," said Ken Jensen, who owns Park Boulevard Stamps, 4980 Park Blvd.

Jensen took down a yellowing, deteriorated sign and replaced it with a tidy blue awning that reads, "Stamps Coins Cards."

The awning and other work on the building's facade cost $2,405. Jensen got a check for half of it from the development agency.

"I benefited and the city benefited," said Jensen, who has been in the building seven years.

The city indeed benefited, said Peter Aluotto, director of the redevelopment agency. It makes the area look better. And good-looking businesses attract others and encourage owners who are already there to make similar improvements.

If a trend develops, residents and passers-by eventually will see a revitalized downtown Pinellas Park, he said.

Aluotto hopes the agency's commercial facade improvement program _ the one that helped Jensen _ will set off such a trend.

"We would love nothing more than to be inundated with calls from people who want to do this," Aluotto said.

For most facade improvements, the city will reimburse up to $2,000. Some can get as much as $4,000 if their businesses are corners with two walls facing streets. In addition, an owner can get $1,000 for changes required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The money comes from the federal government and is administered by Pinellas County. The county gives the money to cities with economic redevelopment districts such as Pinellas Park's.

Four businesses, including Jensen's, have participated since Pinellas Park got involved with the facade improvement program a year ago.

Al Meilus used the program to help renovate a building for his Meilus Muscular Therapy Clinic, 8301 49th St.

"We were literally ready to move out of the city," Meilus said.

He was running out of space in a building he once occupied four blocks away. Then Meilus found out about the program.

Remaining in Pinellas Park, he said, is important to his practice because it is in the middle of the county, accessible to his clients who come from all directions.

Meilus replaced windows, repaired the roof, painted and planted shrubs around the 1,600-square-foot building, spending about $6,000 on the work. He will get half back from Aluotto's agency.

Al and Roxy Delp got $1,250 for landscaping around their building at 5900 Park Blvd. They lease the space to BJR Auto Repair.

Doug Summers, who owns Summers Mobile Home Park at 4165 Park Blvd., spent $5,780 on improvements and got $2,000 back.

Summers painted an apartment building with seven units in his park and replaced old jalousie windows, he said. Then he planted shrubs and trees.

"We spent $1,800 on landscaping," Summers said. "That would have been serious money to bear on our own. But since we got dollar-for-dollar we could do it."

Find out more

For information about the facade improvement program offered by the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, call Peter Aluotto at 541-0800.

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