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Groups move to make way for station

The Pinellas Park Art Society and chamber of commerce will move to ParkSide before a new town center is built.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 23, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Folks at the Pinellas Park Art Society are dusting off their brushes and easels.

Over at the Pinellas Park/Mid-County Chamber of Commerce, executive director Rita Bott is digging through scrapbooks and reading through minutes of past meetings.

All the activity is in preparation for big changes on Park Boulevard: The art society and chamber will be moving to ParkSide mall later this year or early next year so both buildings can be razed to make way for a new train station.

"I'm looking at things, saying, 'Do we really need this?' " Bott said. "I pity our garbage service over the next couple of months."

The train station will be the focus of a new town center that will house the chamber and art society, plus the Pinellas Park Historical Society, city offices and a coffee shop.

Construction on the $3.5-million building is expected to start in February and should take about 18 months, assistant city manager Mike Gustafson said.

"The plan is coming along really good. It looks like it will be really a jewel for the Pinellas Park area," Gustafson said. "It's a neat, exciting project. I think (people in) the city will enjoy just coming to visit it."

Adding to the ambience, Gustafson said, will be the coffee shop, which will help bring people into the building.

"Somebody like Starbucks will probably be the first one I talk to," Gustafson said.

In order to build the long-planned town center, the chamber and art society must move. ParkSide, at 7200 U.S. 19 N, is making room for the organizations, as it did for the city library during renovations.

Mall spokeswoman Susan Robertson said officials there are looking forward to having the new tenants. Both organizations will be located near entrances, she said.

The chamber will be on the second floor in the northwest section of the mall by the Amtrak entrance, she said. The art society will be on the first floor in the northeast section by the Dairy Queen.

Both groups will be able to conduct business and classes as usual, Robertson said. The mall might even take advantage of having the art society there by displaying some of the artwork throughout the building, she said.

"The chamber is always ready for a new adventure," Bott said. The move to the mall will allow the chamber to meet new people and new businesses, she said.

Bott, an animal lover and shopper, also has a few personal weaknesses for the temporary location.

"The only thing I worry about is being so close to Dillard's and so close to the SPCA," she said.

And then at the chamber's new digs in the train station, should Starbucks become a resident? "That means after I have my downfall with Dillard's and the SPCA, I have my downfall with Starbucks," Bott said. "Cafe latte for everyone."

Although the chamber will not move until December or January, the art society will begin its move sometime in November, president Nancy Hodges said, which will give members time to set up lights and other equipment before classes begin again after the first of the year.

Said Hodges: "It's sad, but it's also exciting because of the new building we're going to be in."

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