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Crosstown Parkway businesses unite



Crosstown Parkway

The city’s newest east-west thoroughfare, Crosstown Parkway bisects a growing commercial
sector of Port St. Lucie.

Mom-and-pop enterprises explore ways to make first impressions lasting ones

BY JANIE GOULD

A group of business owners in Port St. Lucie has decided to seek strength in numbers.

With strong support from City Hall, men and women who operate businesses west of Bayshore Boulevard and east of the Florida Turnpike have formed the Crosstown Business Park Association to focus on needs and common concerns.

Many of the 400 or so businesses in the area are mom-and-pop operations serving Port St. Lucie’s rebounding construction industry, from plumbing to roofs and shutters. Chuck Reller, a business owner there for nearly 30 years, serves as the association’s secretary.

He said the idea for forming a nonprofit was voiced in a meeting the city sponsored to seek ideas about enhancing the area.

“We want to have a better face on our community, a better look from the turnpike,” he said. “We need to upgrade the impression we make to the world. So the question is, how do you get there?”

He said street lighting needs to be beefed up, and parking realigned to accommodate more customers as well as employees, and some business owners should be encouraged to fix up their property.

“We would like to improve the overall look of the area by maybe maintaining the properties a little better,” Reller said. “We would also like a better relationship with the city, because they really are our business partners.”

CITY’S IDEA

He credits Patricia Roebling, head of the city’s Engineering and Public Works department and former interim city manager, with getting the group started.

“She really led the parade on this,” he said. “She organized it, she got several of us together to start a nonprofit association.”

Patti Tobin, the city’s longtime planning and zoning director, says the business area sprang up in the 1980s, when workers building houses in new neighborhoods needed a place to store heavy equipment. Officials formalized it as a commercial zone in the mostly residential city when they wrote the first comprehensive plan in the mid-1980s.

“It’s a diverse area of businesses and services now, with plumbers, air-conditioning people, restaurants, bakeries, dentists,” Tobin said. ”It’s a place where the small guy can go to buy a business or buy land.”

She said the city has done some road and drainage work in the area and plans to do more. Reller applauds her approach to challenges.

“Patti Tobin can definitely drive the bus,” Reller said. “Her mindset is pragmatic and also creative, which allows changes to occur.”

He said Mayor Greg Oravec and City Manager Jeffrey Bremer have also been proactive and receptive, but he concedes that the city has much larger problems to deal with.

“As far as problems go, from one to 10, we’re one, in my opinion,” he said. “But the city is trying. They’re reaching out.”

DISTRICT ON WAY UP

Reller has owned and operated American Personal Storage, a self-storage and mini-warehouse business at 1849 SW South Macedo Blvd., since 1986. The business, still in its original location, has grown remarkably over the years.

“I started very small, with about 8,000 square feet,” he said. “Now I’m at about 70,000.”

In another sign of an improving economy, a 22,000-square-foot facility, Expert Shutters, is under construction and can be seen from the turnpike.

“Business is getting busier and that’s a good thing,” Reller said. “We’re definitely on the upswing.”

GROUP UNDEFINED

As for the future of the nonprofit group, it all depends on who will step forward to lead it, he said.

“How can we encourage businesses in a nondraconian way to maintain their property?” he said. “The city doesn’t want to put an undue burden on the businesses that are struggling. They’re trying to enforce the codes but not be overzealous. We can act as an intermediary between the community and the city. How we get there, I don’t know.”

One basic issue still being discussed is the name of the organization. Crosstown Parkway, one of Port St. Lucie’s three east-west thoroughfares, along with Port St. Lucie and Prima Vista boulevards, bisects the district, hence the name. However, the district is traditionally associated with Bayshore Boulevard and is known to many as the Bayshore business district. Reller said Bayshore Business Park might be a better name for the organization.

“Some think we could do a better job of defining the area,” he said.