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Downtown St. Pete to get animal hospital in spot Dunkin’ Donuts sought

St. Petersburg locals came out against the chain last year and were vocal a local business should take over the old Verizon building.
The former Verizon building at First Ave N. and MLK in St. Petesrburg will soon be an animal hospital. The same property spawned local outcry last year when it was a proposed Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru. [Google] [Google]
Published Nov. 5
Updated Nov. 5

ST. PETERSBURG — The former Verizon building on First Avenue N. in the downtown Edge District once proposed as a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant and drive-through will become an animal hospital instead.

Dr. Raul Buso of St. Petersburg announced plans for the future EDGE Animal Hospital this week. It will be his second veterinary center in the city. He plans a 2020 opening.

“The previous owner wanted a local business to take over,” Buso said.

Pinellas County property records show Buso purchased the property at 913 First Ave. N from an Orlando developer in May for $2.1 million. That Orlando developer, Jonathan Moore, came under fire from locals in March of 2018 after he appeared before city commissioners seeking a land-use permit to allow the drive-through service.

RELATED: ‘Don’t Fort Lauderdale St. Petersburg.’ Dunkin’ drive-through fails

More than three dozen people showed up at a public meeting to speak against Moore’s plan. The city commissioners could only deny the request for the drive-through, not the doughnut chain in general. After 90 minutes of debate, the commission agreed a drive-through would add more traffic than the intersection at First Ave N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street could support.

Moore told the anti-chain crowd gathered at City Hall he tried to attract local businesses but hadn’t had success. Ultimately, the Dunkin’ deal fell through and the space remained vacant. Moore bought it for $1.1 million in 2017, records show.

Buso is glad he found the space. He hadn’t known about the Dunkin’ drama until after he started researching the property. His other location, Haines Road Animal Hospital, is to the north in the Harris Park neighborhood.

He said the second location is perfect, not only because St. Pete is known to be pet friendly, but because of how close it will be to new high-rises.

“The mayor’s huge push here to be a pet-friendly city and all the new apartments," Buso said, “I thought it was a great place to set up shop.”

He expects many of his new furry patients will enjoy walking to the neighborhood vet rather than being driven. The office will be full-service, with X-ray, ultrasound and radiology capabilities, as well as dental and emergency care. It will not be a 24-hour hospital.

Design plans call for four exams rooms and other treatment areas throughout the 3,100 square-foot-space.

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