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Talk of the bay

Florida downtowns get a boost

Published August 16, 2004

Not that long ago downtown St. Petersburg was virtually nonexistent. Now city officials are being invited to give presentations on how they accomplished its resurrection.

At least that was Mayor Rick Baker's role addressing a seminar on Florida downtowns at the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Orlando recently.

Baker said the biggest obstacles were in creating a master plan, then developing the "political will" to pull it off.

The talk was part of the launch of a new partnership to promote Florida downtowns. It pairs 1,000 Friends of Florida, a group that promotes planned growth and antisprawl strategies, with Visit Florida Inc., the nonprofit corporation that is the state government's lead tourist marketing agency.

While details of the partnership still are being negotiated, Visit Florida is talking of putting up about $100,000 to publish and distribute walking tours of Florida's vibrant small-town downtowns and big city downtowns that came back from the dead.

The promotions will be similar to Visit Florida's publications and Web site promotions listing the state's off-the-beaten-track, nature-based and historical attractions.

Downtown Dunedin and Tarpon Springs will be among the small-town downtowns. Downtown St. Petersburg and Ybor City in Tampa will join South Beach in Miami Beach and West Palm Beach among the revived downtowns cited.

"Downtown St. Petersburg was a natural," said Kerri Post, Visit Florida's vice president of new product development who grew up in Pinellas County. "It has it all: culture, history, activities, restaurants, shopping, special events and a very walkable waterfront. They even have a Publix. It's become a very hip place."

[Last modified August 14, 2004, 00:23:14]

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