Bet­ter av­enue for lo­cal stores

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion -

St. Peters­burg Mayor Rick Krise­man has rolled out a re­vised pro­posal for pro­tect­ing lo­cally owned busi­nesses along Beach Drive and Cen­tral Av­enue. Un­like last year’s first at­tempt, this ef­fort shows real prom­ise for help­ing small busi­ness own­ers while pro­tect­ing land­lords’ prop­erty rights and avoid­ing in­ter­fer­ing with the free mar­ket.

In 2017, Krise­man ap­proached the is­sue from the wrong an­gle: by at­tempt­ing to ban chain stores from Beach Drive and Cen­tral Av­enue be­tween the wa­ter­front and 31st Street. It would have re­quired chains — in­clud­ing lo­cally owned ones — to ap­ply for a vari­ance, which left the process open to ar­bi­trary in­ter­pre­ta­tion and didn’t ad­dress the big­gest threat to mo­mand-pop shops, which is ris­ing rents, not the specter of a big box store mov­ing in.

To his credit, Krise­man started with a clean slate and talked to busi­ness own­ers and land­lords about their con­cerns. What re­sulted is the “Store­front Con­ser­va­tion Cor­ri­dor Plan,” which lim­its the num­ber of medium and large store­fronts on each block of Cen­tral and Beach, based on cur­rent ra­tios.

This ap­proach doesn’t out­right ban chain stores but makes it less at­trac­tive for, say, Star­bucks to move in where it will be lim­ited to a small space. On the other hand, that’s an up­side to a lo­cal cof­fee shop that can’t af­ford rent on a huge space. And the plan could in­di­rectly en­cour­age growth on sleepier stretches, such as First av­enues north and south and 16th Street, that could use the eco­nomic boost of a ma­jor restau­rant or re­tailer.

The dis­tinct mix of shops, bars and restau­rants on Beach Drive and Cen­tral Av­enue are un­doubt­edly an as­set worth pre­serv­ing and pro­tect­ing. Krise­man’s new pro­posal is solid step in that di­rec­tion.

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