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22nd Ave. N gets another retail boost

One strip mall will open soon, and a toxic site will be cleaned up for a project not yet approved.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published September 27, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - A long-vacant property is the latest of two upgrades in the home-improvement district along 22nd Avenue N.

Norris and Samon, a gas-station remediation and construction firm, is planning a retail development called 22nd Avenue Commons on a triangular parcel between 29th and 31st streets, a site last occupied in 1987 by Jones Chemical Co.

Vice president Jared Samon said the Jones site was contaminated in a 1970s chemical spill, but until now no one wanted to do the cleanup to make the property usable.

"We're going to dig down and remove the hazardous soil and haul it off to Alabama," said Samon of the $500,000 process to remove about 300 tons of dirt contaminated with trichloroethane.

If the process goes smoothly, by the start of the new year Samon's company will begin constructing a gas station, car wash and two retail buildings to serve customers who frequent the area for tile, lumber and home services. He said the strip between 34th Street and Fourth Street has been almost devoid of other shopping, forcing people to travel far for complementary services.

The shift to accommodate home-improvement shoppers began two years ago when Mazzaro's Coffee and Italian Market expanded its 22nd Avenue location and created a covered outdoor dining area.

"My office is right here and there's no food, no retail, but a lot of rooftops," Samon said. "Before Mainstream, there was nothing."

Mainstream Plaza is the other new retail development along 22nd Avenue, with a 22,000-square-foot strip mall ready to open next month between 25th and 28th streets.

"This is a pioneering project for this market," said Scott Dobbins of Gulfcoast Commercial, the leasing agent for developer Mainstream America.

The Mainstream project has the same light commercial aim as Samon's. It's first tenant to open will be Panchero's Mexican Grill, a Midwest chain new to the area, said Dobbins. Soon to follow will be a Quiznos Subs, Wireless Gadgets store, Doma, a high-end home furnishings store, and Beyond, an Aveda salon.

Dobbins said space remains in the two Mainstream buildings but he is in talks with a bank, a fitness center and others. He is marketing the development for traffic from nearby big-box stores Home Depot and Lowe's and the demand for alternative shopping.

"This will set the pace for changes along 22nd Avenue," said Tony Fernandez, the Mainstream developer who broke new commercial ground last year with two new strips on opposite sides of Fourth Street between Seventh and Eight avenues N.

Samon's project is somewhat more complicated than Mainstream.

He said he has been working with state environmental officials for 18 months to work out cleanup details before finalizing plans with the city, which has yet to approve the project.

Samon's experience with environmental remediation allowed him to purchase the 6.5-acre parcel a year ago for $1.5-million, he said.

He later sold 4 acres south of the bisecting CSX railroad tracks for $2-million, most of which will go toward cleaning the 2.5 acres on which he'll build the retail center.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.

[Last modified September 26, 2006, 19:25:20]


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