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    Offices find home at mortuary site

    A New Orleans-style office and retail project will transform a former funeral home across from Safety Harbor's City Hall.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2001


    SAFETY HARBOR -- For years Rose Gennaro would watch mourners and caskets come and go from the building across the street.

    "It was very depressing," said the receptionist, who has a clear view from her desk in City Hall to the former Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home.

    But now Gennaro is looking forward to more "uplifting" foot traffic when Rene Neyrey turns the former mortuary at 737 Main St. into a New Orleans-style office and retail space.

    Neyrey, owner of Neyrey Financial Group, bought the 6,500-square-foot building from Blount Curry & Roel Funeral Homes Pinellas County in December for $582,000. Blount Curry & Roel and Sylvan Abbey are a part of the same group of funeral homes.

    "We're about a third of the way (complete) on the interior," Neyrey said recently. "I'd like to see a restaurant in the larger space to keep a mix going of a nice blend where people can do some shopping, eat and do some business."

    A month after he bought the brick building with dingy sky-blue siding, Neyrey moved his consulting company into the second floor and plans to relocate his wife's Clearwater gift and antique shop there in the coming weeks.

    Mike Baty, director of operations for Blount Curry, once owned the Main Street property and operated it as Baty Funeral Home for 15 years. In 1995, Baty says, he merged his business with Sylvan Abbey, which later was purchased by Blount Curry.

    "It's an incredible location, which is a lot more important than the structure itself," he said. "It fronts three streets, the exposure is wonderful, and there is a lot of foot traffic. It's a great place to be."

    Neyrey said a Safety Harbor real estate company and a marketing firm have already signed on as tenants and plan to move in when the renovation is complete six months from now.

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