SBMA aims to bring growth to the 34th Street corridor

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The 34th Street Small Business and Motel Association, Inc. (SBMA) has an eye on contributing to the growth and revenue of businesses along the historic corridor in St. Pete. Established in May, the association seeks to preserve and revitalize the historic businesses and motels that line the corridor midway between the Gulf beaches and downtown.

“People play downtown, people play at the beaches, but 34th Street is representative of where people work and live,” said Keith Winslow, the organization’s president.

The corridor is a main thoroughfare of the city, Winslow said, but it has unfortunately fallen on hard times. Conceding that though there is still a presence of poverty, prostitution and drugs, he aims to have the 34th Street SBMA work with the city and local businesses to help restore the neighborhood to what it once was.

“What we need to do is reestablish [the corridor’s] grandeur by dealing with it as a commercial development area,” Winslow explained. “With the help of the city we want to do that along with the local people who want to see it come back.”

Winslow noted that many of the motels along the corridor house veterans, and that is the main reason why he decided to get involved. He is opposed to potential city plans to close the motels and build them all out, as he stated that would hardly be fair to the veterans.

“There’s a way to take care our veterans and the underprivileged without running up against them,” he said, adding that there is potential for buildings along 34th Street to offer medical services and housing for veterans. “In my talks with the V.A., they’ve always said we need a bigger presence on the south side of town. We need to have something for our veterans.”

Winslow noted that Julius Mosley, a second-generation owner of the Mosley Motel on 34th Street, is working hard with him and the city in trying to make sure that the Mosley “raises its reputation back to where it originally started.” But Winslow and Mosley agree that the city should focus on keeping the small businesses along the corridor, as they are vital to the neighborhood, rather than be unfairly pushed out to make way for superstores and condominiums.

His motel is one the last places of its kind that provides affordable housing, said Mosley, whose father opened the first Mosley Motel in St. Pete in 1942. As the motel offers affordable daily, weekly and even monthly rates, it gives people in between residences a chance to make a transition.

“When they try to get into apartments, they want first, last, security and a credit check,” Mosley stated. “Before you know it you’re out $1,500 bucks. A lot of people can come here and can stay and buildup, so they’re able to transition.

The association plans to immediately recognize the best of the best in business with an annual “Awards of Excellence Event” for projects and beautification designs for this area.

The association looks forward to putting on an awards banquet every year to distinguish the people and businesses that meet the challenges of making things better all along 34th Street, Winslow affirmed.

He said the association plans to invite other businesses in the community that are not located on 34th Street to participate in some events such as music festivals and block parties, and also seeks to establish an annual street festival that will contribute thousands of dollars to local charitable organizations from its net proceeds.

Winslow also would like to encourage film production companies to use this area for authentic film and television location for their projects. Overall, he sees it as a community effort to help restore the corridor, which has a rich heritage.

“St. Petersburg is one of the great cities on the west coast and it deserves better than it’s gotten,” Winslow stated. “We as citizens of this county want to bring it back to its original glory.”

The public is invited to attend the first meeting of the SBMA next Tues., June 30 at the Quality Inn, 1400 34th St., N. St Petersburg, from 9:30-11am. Food will be provided. Please RSVP at (727) 346-4035.

To contact the 34th Street SBMA, call Keith Winslow at (727) 280-4779 or send an email to 34thstreetsbma@gmail.com.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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