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Central Avenue renews business district revival

Grand Central District Association has hired a manager in its bid to win Main Street designation.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- A manager, a new office and a potted plant project are the latest steps forward for a 2-year-old revival project along Central Avenue.

Linda Truslow, a former public affairs officer and American Red Cross chapter manager, has been hired to lead the Grand Central District Association's effort to win a state Main Street designation.

The mere fact of her appointment is expected to help.

"I'd say we have to be a front runner. We've been doing everything they asked," said David Gruskin, Grand Central president.

Grand Central failed in August to win the designation on its first attempt, in part because the organization had no Main Street manager, state officials said at the time.

The Main Street programs bring a little money and direct intense state attention to redeveloping business districts. This year's applications are due July 26.

Meanwhile, Grand Central is refurbishing an office at 2438 Central Ave. A half-dozen volunteers painted it -- and some adjacent storefronts -- on Saturday. "I hope some (occupants of) other buildings take our lead and do the same," Gruskin said.

The office's grand opening party is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 20.

The revival project descends from the Central Avenue Tomorrow initiative that began in 1999. An intense few months of planning resulted in quick approval from city boards to begin an "urban village" approach to revitalization. It aims for a mix of small shops, town home-style residences and offices.

The Grand Central District lies between First avenues N and S, between 19th and 34th streets. But the Main Street project will focus on a smaller area, Gruskin said -- between Interstate 275 and 28th Street.

The state's Main Street gatekeepers prefer small, compact projects. "They don't want you to bite off more than you can chew," Gruskin said.

Signs to mark the gateways to the area, logo design and about 100 potted plants are next on the agenda. A $5,000 city neighborhood grant will finance much of the plant project, which aims to group plants in front of businesses. The grant proposal was titled, "Get your pot on Central Avenue," but that terminology isn't likely to survive further, Gruskin said.

Truslow, the new manager, directed a Red Cross chapter in Burlington, Iowa, and more recently was the public affairs officer for Family Services Centers of Pinellas County.

One of her first tasks will be getting new carpeting.

"That's the current project," she said. "Moving in and getting the office started up."

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