INTRODUCTION: Formed in 2018, the legacy Communities of Pinellas Point (COPP) includes volunteer civic leaders from the boards of directors of Bahama Shores, Bayou Highlands, Greater Pinellas Point, and Lakewood Terrace neighborhood associations. Recently, leaders from Coquina Key Neighborhood Association have participated in COPP meetings as have civic-conscious residents in the unrepresented Cook Park area. This collaboration brings to a single table the strength of unity to address, research and take action on issues that impact the southernmost neighborhoods of Saint Petersburg. COPP meets monthly with regular representation from Saint Petersburg Police Department District 1 leaders, City Economic Development (a standing partner), Codes Compliance and City elected office holders. COPP has been twice awarded certificates of merit by Mayor Kriseman for its collaborative effectiveness.
Now, on with the news!
COQUINA KEY SHOPPING CENTER
In the March 10, 2020 COPP meeting, two CKSC business owners and a CVS Pharmacy representative were on hand to express their thoughts and concerns about the overall condition and future of the property. The conversation focused on public safety challenges arising from the incidents of 'toe tagging' in the massive parking lot, the noise and disturbance complaints lodged primarily against the Cabana Sands club, the customer parking challenges faced by other proximity businesses particularly when club patrons and Name Your Event party goers compete for favorable spaces, and the overarching uncertainty as to what was happening with the ACE Hardware construction. All of these variables impact customer confidence to patronize their businesses.
City Codes and Economic Development reps confirmed that required permitting for the ACE project have lapsed and/or not extended or renewed as legally required. Permits to continue work on an overall facade facelift have also not been submitted. The property is privately owned which does not give the City legal authority to demand the owner disclose negotiations with existing or potential tenants. Therefore, based on non-compliance with mandatory permitting requirements, the ACE Hardware franchise store construction will not proceed. Rumor and conjecture as to what may or has happened with the ACE/Property Owner relationship are beyond the scope of COPP. As for the future presence of CVS Pharmacy, their rep advised there is no indication at the local level of closing the store and deferred COPP to regional or corporate leaders who would be better able to address the inquiry.
Meeting attendees cited issues with specific ACE buildout fencing barriers and other abandonded construction debris that pose safety and aesthetic concerns. Codes Compliance committed to investigate and take appropriate mitigation measures.
With COPP ongoing advocacy, St. Petersburg Police Department has fully engaged Cabana Sands to address citizen concerns and partner with them on public safety and noise ordinance compliance. The use of off duty sworn officers on busier days and installing surveillance cameras have been discussed and are under consideration specifically for that space/area. SPPD also advised that the well-publized shooting incident attributed to Cabana Sands was a result of an outside beef. SPPD also recognized that events at the Name Your Event rental space, immediately next door to Cabana Sands, may lead to larger crowds gathering and loitering in the northeast parking area of the shopping center, many of whom are not attending or patronizing either venue.
Additionally, to address the issue of 'toe tagging,' dangerous vehicle joy riding and racing, the city has worked with the property owner to successfully recommend strategically arranging bump stops in the parking lot that, since their installation, have been very effective in discouraging dare devil/racing antics. Business owners were encouraged to form a business association to partner with the property owner/management with focus on win- win improvements. Lastly, to mitigate parking challenges, business owners were encouraged to consult with property management and the city to install 'parking only for' signs to make it easier for their customers to access their store.
The Florida Housing Coalition (FHC) has not given the City or COPP an update on the status of their repurposing proposal for Skyway Plaza. FHC first presented their proposal to Greater Pinellas Point residents at a Civic Association general meeting in February 2019. In that well-attended meeting, FHC leaders walked through their proposal to compete for Fannie Mae grant funding aimed at challenging housing development entities to most creatively convert vacated big box spaces into multi-functional spaces. Attendees also participated in an interactive exercise to give their opinions on FHC's proposed renderings, which included public exterior spaces, gardens, affordable living and working spaces for emerging entrepreneurs, and spaces for a variety of small businesses from produce to baked goods to craft beers.
The last update from FHC was in a September 2019 COPP meeting with no definitive answers on how their proposal had been received by Fannie Mae or their ongoing activities to move forward. COPP remains committed to staying in the loop with FHC as it was understood from the beginning that their proposal was on at least an 18 month timeline through the Fannie Mae grant challenge process. Meanwhile, in October 2019, COPP was surprised to learn that a healthcare facility for the underinsured under local Advantage Village Academy leadership was all set through grant funding and a signed lease with property owner Brixmor to occupy the former Walgreen's liquor store space. This facility has not materialized to date and COPP is attempting to understand what has come of the project. Currently, a 'liquor store coming soon' banner hangs above that space. Even if other businesses were to take residence at Skyway Plaza, the FHC proposal includes only the space formerly occupied by the Sweet Bay grocery store.
COPP intends to continue supporting and advocating for vibrant, best use, safe, and sustainable business development at Skyway Plaza and Coquina Key Shopping Center. The approach is centered on gaining the confidence of these commercial property owners to see that COPP is not an adversary, but sincerely motivated to share the collective voice of the communities, hopefully leading to attracting business interest in these properties and ultimately landing long term occupancy.