16th Street S businesses to fling open their doors

Published March 28, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - A "Spring Fling" to celebrate the expanding 16th Street business district near Tropicana Field will be held Saturday.

Front Porch Community Development Association, the event's host, will use the occasion to showcase a new outdoor classroom adjacent to its offices at 1523 16th St. S.

There are now 54 businesses between First Avenue and 22nd Avenue S, says Catherine Weaver, president of the Sixteenth Street Business Association. Most, though, are concentrated between 15th and 18th avenues S with the bulk of them minority-owned, she said.

While business has improved on 16th Street S, Weaver said there are still concerns.

"Because of all the plazas that are opened up, people are leaving the community. That's putting pressure on the businesses on 16th Street. A lot of them are small businesses," she said. "We want to be an example that you cannot only stay in business, but there's also support to help you stay in business. We need to talk about how to own businesses. We need to come together as a community to try to make a difference and that's what this is all about. The younger businesses, come and go. We want to be a support system."

Joining long established Sixteenth Street businesses such as Welch Tax Service, open since in 1966; Red's Snak Shak, 1978; and Connie's Bar-B-Que, 1986, are several newcomers. Among them are the International Association of Young Enterprisers Inc., Foxy Nails, Hair for You, New Life Thrift, Nu Place Lending and Tee Shirt University.

Weaver is founder and president of the International Association of Young Enterprisers, 1655 16th St. S. The company will offer workshops for children 10 years and older and young adults up to 25 years old.

"Our goal is to teach them business concepts. Our goal is to have different professionals teach them subjects like business plan writing and marketing," said Weaver, an artist who also owns the Uniquely Original Art Gallery at 1525 16th St. S and comes from a long line of entrepreneurs.

Front Porch Community Development Association is funded through the Florida Department of Community Affairs Office of Urban Opportunity. The Front Porch Florida Initiative was created in 1999 to help revitalize distressed communities.

The local Front Porch group is organizing Saturday's event with the city of St. Petersburg's Midtown Economic Development Department, its Business Assistance Center, the Sixteenth Street Business Association and other organizations.

The event will include a tour of the new Front Porch Multipurpose Outdoor Classroom and Trade Library. The outdoor classroom, once the province of drug dealers, has been transformed, said La'Kesha O'Neal, Front Porch spokeswoman. She said new wrought iron gates and flowering plants and trees around the property's perimeter will discourage loiterers.

O'Neal said Front Porch is asking corporations for donations of security cameras and that the organization is asking for 24 laptops for an outdoor computer lab.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 727 892-2283 or moore@sptimes.com.

If you go

Spring Fling

Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, 1523 16th St. S, St. Petersburg. Tour of outdoor classroom, entrepreneurial and business workshops, education and training opportunities, visual art, gallery walk, health fair, prizes, giveaways, music, and free food. Sixteenth Street businesses also will sponsor a shopping contest with a chance to win an Easter gift basket. Call 727) 898-6144.