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CRA INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS

Stormwater and drainage improvements have remained a priority in the CRD due to the historic impact of repetitive ponding and flooding on residential and commercial properties and on roadways. The Park Boulevard Drainage Improvements Project, a multi-year, multi-phased project, has leveraged federal funding to address this issue comprehensively, with the CRA supporting specific segments located within and impacting drainage within the CRD. The importance of this project to the success of CRA redevelopment efforts is immeasurable. 

During 2014-2015, work was completed on the Park Boulevard Phase II Drainage Improvements project for Pond A.  This project installed new drainage and water quality improvements, as well as improvements to the adjacent passive park area located behind the intersection of Park Boulevard and 66th Street.  Work also continued during 2014-2015 on Park Boulevard Phase IV Drainage Improvements for the Garnett and North Disston Subdivisions.  The segment of the project supported by the CRA will improve drainage in a 40-acre area extending from 46th Street to 49th Street between 82nd and 86thAvenues. 

Work was also completed to construct transit restrooms at the Shoppes at Park Place, in partnership with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.  The project supports a major transit point serving the mall area as well as adjacent parks and residential areas, and addressed the growing concerns of adjacent businesses as ridership continued to increase. 

Additional improvements in CRD infrastructure made during 2014-2015 include the ongoing CRA Sidewalk Program to add new pedestrian access and safety features within the District, and continuing landscaping improvements throughout the CRA to improve the visual appeal of heavily trafficked roadways and public facilities.  During the current reporting year, landscaping efforts focused on lighting improvements and vegetation replacement in green space and parking areas surrounding City Hall and adjacent to England Brothers Park and the Performing Arts Center.

COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND EVENTS

The Community Redevelopment District boasts numerous facilities for special events that bring a steady stream of people to the downtown area and generate interest in the District.  England Brothers Park has long served as a popular location for concerts and events, and continuing CRA-led improvements to the adjacent Performing Arts Center have expanded capacity and opportunities for public events.  These enhancements have contributed to the ability of the community’s Performing Arts Center to attract a popular concert series that now routinely boasts sold-out shows ranging from Motown and Sounds of Soul performances to Beach Boys and Elton John tributes.

The City’s historic downtown, long the starting point for the popular annual Holiday Parade, increasingly provides opportunities for small business development, and the concentration of public facilities such as Park Station, the City Auditorium, Police Station, Senior Recreation Center, Shuffleboard Courts, and Senior Fitness Center along 58th Street make it a major activity hub for the City. As the City celebrated its Centennial during 2014-2015, the City’s historic downtown also served as the location for new celebrations and events. In October 2014, the Centennial year was launched with a re-enactment of the delivery of the City’s charter on horseback, held at the historic City Auditorium (photo below). The CRA-supported Park Station Building at 5851 Park Boulevard served as the repository for the city’s Time Capsule, unearthed for the 2015 Country in the Park Festival and replenished with iconic items from 2015.  Park Station serves as a center for community meetings and events, and provides office, work, meeting, and event space to both the Pinellas Park – Gateway Chamber of Commerce and the growing nonprofit Pinellas Park Art Society, which offers classes and shows in this centrally located facility.

In May, 2015, the CRA sponsored a Spring Fling festival in the adjacent 5600 and 5700 Blocks of Park Boulevard to celebrate and promote small businesses in the area.  A new community art garden developed in the 5700 Block in late 2014 brought neighborhood residents and businesses together and served as the location for community painting events and gardening workshops.  And in June, 2015 and the months following, the area extending from Park Station to the 5600 Block drew additional community attention with a series of Better Block visioning activities.

SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND THE ARTS

In 2012, the CRA created the Pinellas Park Office Suites, located at 5663 Park Boulevard, home of the Professional Entrepreneurs of Pinellas Park (PEPP).  The Pinellas Park Office Suites, the first project of its kind in Pinellas County, was established to help startup businesses get off the ground, and to aid entrepreneurs in making their dream of owning a successful business come true.  The CRA formed a unique partnership with the St. Petersburg College of Business to provide education, guidance and support to the participants. The incubator provided below-market rate office space through Fiscal Year 2014-2015 to a diverse group of ten small business owners, with entrepreneurs able to take advantage of the program for up to three years.  

In 2013, a second, arts-related business incubator was established 5681 Park Boulevard. A 10-year lease agreement with Pompei Studios provided below-market rate studio space, with rents increasing after an initial 5-year period to allow the artist to expand his business. The establishment in early 2014 of a music school and German cultural retail outlet in the adjacent United Cottages Neighborhood (see below) began to set the stage for the expansion of arts and culture in these adjacent blocks of Park Boulevard. In early 2015, a ten-year lease agreement was finalized with a second artist for the establishment of the Swartz Gallery at 5609 Park Boulevard, bringing new events and visitors to the area. 

These efforts expanded during 2014-2015 when the CRA funded the construction of a shared public parking area adjacent to the Cottages district.  The neighborhood was further enlivened in late 2014 with the development of a small arts-focused community garden on temporarily vacant land.  In 2015, the CRA initiated a partnership with a private developer to begin construction of a modern two-story artist live-work unit at 5705 Park Boulevard, adjacent to the Cottages.  When construction is completed in 2016, the facility and planned public breezeway will connect the Cottages District with the Park Boulevard commercial corridor, further stimulating the development of innovative mixed use housing and commercial uses in this neighborhood. 

THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT POLICING UNIT

Recognizing that specific conditions of slum and blight existed in the core of the CRD, on January 13, 2010, the Community Redevelopment Policing Unit (CRPU) was established to develop a strategic program to combat social issues that were hindering redevelopment, revitalization, and growth within the CRD. The officers assigned to the CRD are not only responsible for reducing crime, but also educating, building trust within the community, and recognizing blighted areas of the CRD that need attention.  In addition to initiating thousands of contacts per year with residents and business in the CRD, the unit has organized Neighborhood Crime Watch units throughout the District, working closely with residents to monitor and address safety conditions as well as supporting neighborhood events and initiatives.   

One of the Unit’s priorities is the continued safety of the Shoppes at Park Place.  The popularity of this retail and entertainment center continues to grow, due in no small part to regular patrols by the CRPU with participation by the Police Mounted Unit. The CRPU organizes and co-hosts numerous community events each year, one of the largest being its National Night Out event at the Shoppes at Park Place.  This year’s event received a grant from Target that allowed it to distribute backpacks and school supplies to participating children and youth. 

The unit also participates actively in the Homeless Street Outreach Project to provide assistance and long-term solutions for homeless individuals and families encountered within the CRD. These resources are available through cooperative relationships established by and with the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board, which receives annual support from the Pinellas Park CRA as well the City due to its critical importance within the CRD. 

BUSINESS GROWTH AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT

The Community Redevelopment District (CRD) offers multiple opportunities for retail, entertainment, hotel, mixed-use, and residential redevelopment. Both the City and the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) have made major investments in infrastructure and streetscape projects, increasing the area’s attractiveness for new construction, renovation, and adaptive re-use of existing facilities. The CRD’s high visibility for businesses and easy accessibility for residents have encouraged an increasing rate of redevelopment in this district in recent years. 

Businesses locating in the Pinellas Park Community Redevelopment District benefit from zoning and land use provisions that include the ability to develop mixed uses, provisions for density bonuses and affordable housing, and reduced Transportation Impact Fees. For both new and existing businesses, a Façade Grants program offers matching funds for improvements made to building street frontages.  During the reporting year 63 new businesses were established in the CRD, bringing the total of registered businesses to 719.

RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

Residential development within the CRD continues to increase, due in large part to townhome development located adjacent to The Shoppes of Park Place.  Beazer Homes held a grand opening in early 2014 for The Village at Park Place, a new community of 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath townhomes within walking distance of shopping, dining, services, and recreation.  Construction continued into the Fiscal Year 2014-2015, with ten new units completed within the CRD.  Infill development of single family homes elsewhere in the District also continued during 2014-2015.