1. St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg approves plan to preserve small storefronts

The city wants to preserve small storefronts in key downtown areas. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Apr. 19

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council has approved a plan aimed at supporting small businesses and preserving the character of key downtown areas known for their shops and restaurants.

The plan establishes what is being called the Storefront Conservation Corridor plan. It encompasses Beach Drive from Fifth Avenue N to First Avenue S and Central Avenue from First Street to 31st Street.

The words "vibe," and "cool," unheard of in connection to downtown St. Petersburg just a few years ago, came up several times during Thursday's council discussions and from those who spoke for and against the plan. And in an unusual alliance of sorts, developers, property owners and the preservation group Preserve the 'Burg all seemed to agree that more work could be done to improve the initiative.

Council member Darden Rice was in favor of a brief delay. She proposed taking developers and property owners up on their offer to help pay for a third-party study and to hold a community summit "to discuss and provide insight and direction."

Another council member, Brandi Gabbard, who is in real estate, spoke of her concern for property owners.

"Something like this has never been done before, so we have no idea what it is going to do," she said. "That's why I am open to doing this study."

But Council member Gina Driscoll was among those opposed to a delay. The ordinance passed 6-2, with Rice and Council member Ed Montanari voting against.

"I do think it is time to move this forward," Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

RELATED: St. Pete vs. chain stores, part II: Kriseman pitches new approach

Broadly, the new ordinance will regulate the size of storefronts on specified Central Avenue and Beach Drive blocks and establish a minimum number of small store fronts and a maximum of large ones, said Derek Kilborn, manager of the Urban Planning and Historic Preservation Division. Another piece of the plan, approved in March, will offer incentives to small businesses.

Among those opposing parts of the plan was Mack Feldman, who with his father, Larry, and their partners own several buildings in the affected area. He told the council that under the new ordinance, the Lemongrass, one of their tenants, would not be allowed to expand. The business is locally owned, he emphasized.

His father told the council that his company is the largest owner of office buildings in the city's downtown and that the ordinance will greatly restrict development. For instance, he said, the new regulations would not permit a "to-die-for tenant" like Apple Computer, the "biggest driver of traffic" to a mall or to a retail center.

PREVIOUS: St. Petersburg's proposed plan for storefronts, which has critics, is up for City Council vote

Kilborn said the city has been working on the storefront plan since 2017 and that it has evolved in response to feedback from the community.

"When we started this process, we individually measured every storefront in the corridors. We then interpreted that data by block to identify what is the existing distribution of small, medium and large storefronts," Kilborn said.

Though they approved the ordinance, the City Council wants the legal department to return in June with an amendment that addresses adaptive reuse of existing buildings. Property owners have argued that the proposal should apply only to new construction, while the city says that wouldn't help preserve small storefronts.

Jason Rutland Spitzer, who with his mother, Nancy Rutland, operate their family's 18,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space downtown, is in favor of the adaptive use provision.

In a letter to council members, Spitzer — great-grandson of Hubert Rutland Sr., a St. Petersburg banker, businessman and philanthropist — suggested that all buildings built before 1980 be exempt.

"This change will encourage current and future owners of historical buildings to rehabilitate, preserve and renovate these important buildings as opposed to demolishing them, which is often the more lucrative option," he wrote.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.


  1. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  2. The traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Drew Street at McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. Image by Archive
    A reader wonders why the sign at the end of Bayside Bridge instructs trucks heading north to exit during specified hours rather than stay on the bridge.
  3. James Dailey, 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: The most current photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. Tampa Bay Times
    James Dailey’s execution remains set for Nov. 7. On Monday, a judge denied efforts to overturn his death sentence after a former prosecutor testified.
  4. Investigators are collecting evidence at the scene of a fatal stabbing on the 4000 block of 68th Street N. The victim was trying to break into a house, the Sheriff's Office said. KATHRYN VARN   |   TIMES  |  Kathryn Varn
    The dead man had sneaked out of a group home a block away. It’s unlikely charges will be filed, the Sheriff’s Office said.
  5. Archie is available for adoption for free. FRIENDS OF STRAYS ANIMAL SHELTER  |  Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
    The 4-year-old cat is available for adoption for free.
  6.  Designed by Tara McCarty
    And more Pinellas news
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The death was reported early Monday and doesn’t appear suspicious, the agency said.
  8. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  9. A dinner guest at the Maritana Grille at the Don Cesar Hotel contends in a lawsuit filed Friday that she was seriously injured when a waiter poured some of the liquid nitrogen that he was using to prepare a dessert at an adjacent table into her water glass and she drank it. (Times file photo)
    Stacey Wagers contends she was injured while dining at the Maritana Grille last year.
  10. Center: A 43-year-old fugitive wanted in Sarasota County for sexually battering a teenage girl he kept trapped in a room for 18 months there was captured in St. Petersburg on Friday, authorities said. Dwight Bainbridge, right, is now being held in the Pinellas County jail. His girlfriend, Jessica Bambrilla, 39, was also arrested in Sarasota County case in September. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office | Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
    The girl said was kept trapped in a room and given a bucket to urinate in, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. His girlfriend was arrested months ago.