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Businesses to open on Kennedy Boulevard

Store owners work hard to renovate existing buildings and propose forming a committee to improve the neighborhood.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 31, 2002


DOWNTOWN -- Trish and Terence Moore fumed when the City Council denied their request to serve liquor at a proposed bar and game room on Kennedy Boulevard, two blocks from the University of Tampa.

They couldn't understand why the city squashed their plans after they had invested so much time and money fixing up the building. Did no one care?

A week later, the Moores chalked up the experience and vowed to forge ahead. They remain convinced the area is a good place to do business.

"I feel a whole lot better today," Trish Moore said Tuesday. "We're just sort of starting over."

The council's decision killed plans for the game room, but not for other establishments. The Moores still have permission to sell beer and wine at that location, and they are looking for tenants to start a restaurant.

Trish Moore said the opening of Tribeca ColorConstruct next week will help. The salon is moving from Henderson Boulevard to the Moores' building at 922 Kennedy Blvd.

The Moores own three buildings on Kennedy and Edison Avenue, which were vacant for about 15 years. They bought them in February 2001 and recently finished restoring them to their original 1940s charm.

"We saw it as a neighborhood worth investing in," said Trish Moore, who buys only buildings that need a lot of work. "We saw the potential."

A self-described renovation queen, Moore admits it's been tough. Vagrants have vandalized and dumped trash on the property. Some prospective tenants consider the location too risky.

In the last three or four months, four professionals, including a lawyer and an accountant, have moved into the Edison building. The salon will be first to open in the side-by-side buildings on Kennedy.

Owner Brandon Wagner said he liked the location on busy Kennedy and wanted to help revitalize the neighborhood. The area has an unusual mix of professional offices, used car lots, minimarts and restaurants, including the upscale Mise En Place and Bryn Alan Studios.

The Tribeca salon will offer a VIP room for clients coloring their hair and a computer for surfing the Internet while waiting. Wagner hopes to attract busy, South Tampa professionals.

"We're super-convenient to downtown, Davis Islands and Harbour Island," he said. "It's a likable urban setting."

To spark interest, Wagner and Jason Ferguson, a local marketing consultant, are forming a committee of businesses to promote the neighborhood as a chic, urban retail center with shops, restaurants and art galleries.

They came up with the idea about three months ago, but said last week's City Council debate underscored the need to organize.

"We have a lot of interest right now," said Ferguson, who met Wagner through the salon. "It's a great area. There are some beautiful buildings already there. It's just a matter of getting everyone together."

The group will include businesses along Kennedy between Plant Avenue and Edison. Organizers want to call it the Snow Park Council, after a tiny park and monument at the apex of Kennedy and Grand Central Avenue.

A Tampa native, Ferguson said he has driven by the area hundreds of times and always wondered why it wasn't more upscale. UT's Falk Theater is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, he said, but a lot of people don't know about it.

Ferguson hopes the council can help create a neighborhood identity, similar to what businesses did along South Howard. Being on Kennedy should be an asset, not a hindrance.

"Everyone passes by there," he said. "It shouldn't be, 'Oh, that's Kennedy Boulevard. I'm not going to go there."'

The council plans to schedule an organizational meeting toward the end of June. Depending on the interest, the group may install light poles, neighborhood identification signs and banners. Organizers hope university and city officials will get involved.

Trish Moore said bringing the businesses together will make a big difference.

"I really believe that this time next year, it's going to be a whole new neighborhood," she said.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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