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Council backs buying land for supermarket

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 14, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Without a question or word of dissent, the City Council approved a plan Thursday to buy a block of the city's Midtown area, with hopes of one day luring a grocery store there.

The council unanimously authorized $1-million to acquire 3.7 acres at the corner of 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street.

"I think most of the community sees that this is seed money for really, really great things," said council member Bill Foster.

City officials hope the grocery store would serve as the anchor for a community development area in Midtown, the area bordered by Second Avenue N and 30th Avenue S and Fourth and 34th streets.

The council also agreed to designate the area as blighted to qualify the project for public dollars.

For years, the city tried to entice a grocery store chain to Midtown but was unsuccessful. The only chain grocery now within its boundaries is a Winn-Dixie at the northern edge.

Ron Barton, the city's economic director, said the intent is to have the land assembled, which may make the block more attractive to a developer.

The city already owns one parcel on the block. The rest is either owned or under contract to Aracle Homes LLC, a St. Petersburg housing corporation.

Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis said Aracle Homes began buying the property about three years ago with the intent of putting homes on the site. But owner Larry Newsome agreed to switch to commercial development after he was approached by the city.

After a buyer is found for the initial 3.7 acres, the city will focus on the remaining land in the redevelopment area.

Council members said they had received little opposition to the plan from constituents. But a couple of residents expressed dismay over the council's use of the word "blight."

"By doing this, I have a feeling you're going to further decrease the property values in the area," said Yate Catliffboth.

But Cassandra Jackson, who also lives in Midtown, said property owners received fair warning about the city's plan.

"We've been talking about this since the beginning of time," she said. "I support it."

-- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 892-2273 or cjohnson@sptimes.com .

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