Health center has new home
By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nii Botchway went to the horse's mouth.
Operations manager at the St. Vincent de Paul food center, Botchway asked about 90 people at the soup kitchen if they knew where the Pinellas County Health Department's St. Petersburg Center is.
All but five did. Most not only know about the center's new site but like it, Botchway reported.
Six weeks after its move from a 40-year home, the Health Department's St. Petersburg branch seems to have done a good thing. People tuned in to clients say they've heard no chatter about inconvenience. Not many are getting lost trying to find the new place. And some nearby restaurants report at least a small increase in business.
"Our clients are generally happy about the location because it is closer to them. A few of them said it looks nicer and said they were treated a little bit better," Botchway said.
The October move from 500 Seventh Ave. S, near All Children's Hospital, to the old Franklin Templeton building at 205 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N came about because the hospital is expanding and the health center needed more space for its 300 employees.
The new site has 110,000 square feet, twice as much as the old spot, said Elaine Fulton-Jones, health department spokeswoman.
The center's services include dental health, disease testing and treatment, medical consultation and technical advice to health units and private businesses. Many clients are poor and live in or near downtown.
Other clients are Midtown residents, but few apparently have encountered difficulty.
"It's not harder (to reach). The buses run there. It's closer to Jamestown and other housing projects," said Lounell Britt, director of the Sanderlin Family Services Center.
Near the health center, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, at 863 Third Ave. N, has noticed renewed activity around the corner.
"People seem to be getting us mixed up with where the Health Department is located," said Jane Egbert, Free Clinic executive director. "People come in here looking for that building. Now that we're close enough and until people get it sorted, there'll be a little confusion on that."
New employees nearby are benefiting restaurants. Both George Barlas at the Coney Island Sandwich Shop and Dennis Bender at the Chatterbox Grill say their business is up, especially during lunch hour.
"I probably get six or seven customers a day from there," Bender said.
All Children's, meanwhile, will renovate the old health center site on Seventh Avenue S. The project may take until mid 2003, said spokeswoman Ann Miller. It will contain offices.
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