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4th Street facelift: A building at a time

A local attorney looks to transform one of the street's vacant spots into a building that would house office suites for small businesses.

© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 9, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- From motel to retirement home to it's next incarnation as an office building, one structure on Fourth Street N is becoming an example of what many see as a the revitalization of the well-trodden thoroughfare.

The building, 2031 Fourth St. N, just north of Sunken Gardens, is being renovated by St. Petersburg resident John Cappa, who said the 12 units at 2031 Fourth St. N will be well-suited to attorneys, insurance agents, Realtors and other solo practitioners.

"It's got good exposure. It's close to downtown, to the courthouse, to government offices," he said, noting that the location also has easy access to Interstate 275.

The property was once the home of the Sun Tan Motel, which operated from the 1950s into the mid '70s. It was later turned into an assisted-living facility called the Aldridge Retirement Club.

The retirement home closed about three years ago, and the property has stood vacant since. Cappa said he gained ownership by taking over mortgages totaling about $191,000.

The project is one of many new and renovated businesses to flower on Fourth Street in the past few years. It stands kitty-corner from one of the street's most anticipated new businesses -- an Outback Steakhouse that is slated to open in March.

"Fourth Street is experiencing a great renaissance," said Cappa, an attorney who has lived in St. Petersburg for more than 50 years. "There used to be closed-up buildings from one end to another. Now people are turning them into a bunch of interesting things.

"I think Fourth Street is a great street now."

The renovation of the derelict property is a welcome sight to area residents.

"What Mr. Cappa is doing is great," said Clifford Holensworth, president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. "If you clean it up and put on a great-looking paint job, and you add some neighborhood-friendly businesses, you can't lose.

"What I'd really like to see at that property is green space, landscaping -- something that doesn't just look like a big parking lot out front."

Cappa said he plans to rent the suites for about $500 a month. The offices will be just over 200 square feet, and each will have its own bathroom. He said he hopes to have everything ready by the end of January.

A big St. Petersburg supporter, Cappa lives in the Snell Isle neighborhood and has his law office on Central Avenue. He said he is excited about all the positive changes in the city's business scene over the last decade.

"The last 10 years, downtown has come alive," Cappa said. "And it's all been private enterprise. This is just one example of many."

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