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Central Avenue oasis under the microscope

Mark Parker



Miniature rapids form along a small stretch of Booker Creek adjacent to Central Avenue, after heavy rains. Photos by Mark Parker.

Despite decades of progress and seemingly endless construction, there’s still a “secret garden” in St. Petersburg.

Residents and visitors could soon lose the only entryway to a tropical stretch of Booker Creek – in one of the few areas where it doesn’t resemble a drainage ditch. A group of property and business owners are asking city officials to give them control of what one Development Review Commissioner (DRC) called the “coolest alley” in St. Pete.

The city council conducted a first reading of an ordinance to vacate the 16-by-100-foot brick path during Thursday’s meeting. The motion to set a public hearing for June 15 passed unanimously without official or public comment.

However, the DRC discussed the proposal at length during its March 1 meeting. An attorney representing the applicant relayed Green Bench Brewing ownership’s intent to transform the land behind 1421 Central Ave. into a beer garden.

“This is one of those unusual alleys that has access to an unusual water feature,” said Commissioner Chuck Flynt. “And my concern is that giving up this alley access off of Central Avenue forever limits access to this water feature that is unique to this area.

“It would make a good beer garden, though.”

Green Bench Brewing’s owners hope to transform a private parking area along the creek into a beer garden.

City documents state that the public right-of-way between Lots 60 through 63 of the Central Land & Title Co. Replat is “not needed for public use or travel.” St. Petersburg’s Engineering Department does list stipulations to maintain a 15-foot stormwater easement along the creek’s banks – although the applicant, Booker Creek Ventures, has some concerns that would mitigate space needed for redevelopment.

According to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s website, Booker Creek Ventures owns the property.

Duke Energy and Frontier Communications have infrastructure along the creek and must also approve the project. Administrators offered their blessing with those conditions.

Bolyard could not be reached for comment Friday, and the DRC voted 4-2 to move the project forward to the city council. No residents spoke for or against the alley vacation at either meeting, although the published agenda title belies what is at stake.

“Currently, pedestrians and vehicles can both utilize the alley,” Bolyard said. “Yeah, you can walk down there and get a nice look at Booker Creek.”

Steven Duffy, co-owner of Green Bench Brewing, is listed as the applicant’s agent. Bryan Dion, an attorney with Johnson Pope, spoke on behalf of Booker Creek Ventures, the brewery and the property owner.

Bolyard noted that the site consists of two parcels with three platted lots currently leased by small business owners. Dion relayed that Green Bench’s leadership is discussing a long-term agreement to consolidate the facilities overlooking the waterway and construct a brewery and beer garden.

He said the group could also include other local businesses and restaurants in the project. While Dion stressed their intent to work with city officials regarding a private stormwater easement, he said the 15-foot allocation would “unnecessarily restrain the site before we have the opportunity to develop an appropriate site plan.”

“The vacate is just the first step to be able to develop the site in the way that it needs to be done,” Dion added.

A view of the alley along Central Avenue, that dead ends at Booker Creek. Screengrab.

The issue, as Flynt reiterated, is that the public would lose access to a unique portion of Booker Creek. While there was discussion of another nearby alley extending from 1st Avenue North, the city would have to create a public access point to the waterway and involve another business owner.

While it mostly trickles throughout urban areas of the city, lush vegetation surrounds the creek in that small area and miniature rapids form after heavy rains. Flynt said the debate was decidedly different than typical alley relinquishment approvals.

He relayed how city staff previously expressed their desire to preserve public waterway access. He also noted that the Tropicana Field redevelopment would soon impact the area just a few blocks south, and “a large portion of the designs are centered around Booker Creek.”

“If you go along certain other stretches a few miles north, Booker Creek is nothing,” Flynt said. “It’s who cares. I think it’s way too early to vacate this alley – because once it’s gone, it’s gone – without having a plan here to preserve that public access to the water feature.”

The city council will make the final decision, and residents will have another opportunity to voice their opinions at the June 15 meeting.




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  1. Avatar

    Henry Folkersen

    June 3, 2023at2:11 pm

    Leave nature alone. This creek should be expanded and become a great feature of life in the city

  2. Avatar

    Arturo Caponata

    June 3, 2023at4:11 pm

    They paved paradise!!!. Really. Save it. There are other spots for a beer garden.

  3. Avatar

    Georgia Earp

    June 3, 2023at5:07 pm

    Yes, the save the spot. Please!

    Thank you,again, Mark Parker for your excellent reporting.

  4. Avatar

    John Donovan

    June 3, 2023at6:11 pm

    Not so fast city of St. P. (Hold my beer.)

  5. Avatar

    debra roman

    June 3, 2023at8:30 pm

    Agree with the commenters, public access has to be retained. This needs to be part of our parks system.

  6. Avatar

    Steve D

    June 3, 2023at10:25 pm

    Chances are, Green Bench will make it more appealing and accessible. I say, give them the chance to do it.

  7. Avatar

    Debbie Reeser

    June 4, 2023at7:17 am

    This article is quite slanted & doesn’t give the full story. Dan Harvey, Ron Holehouse & Mark Ferguson took a chance by buying the property surrounding that area of Booker Creek. At the time, the EDGE District wasn’t anything like the vibrant area it has become today.

    Dan Harvey spent much of his own money & sweat equity in creating the beautiful oasis that now exists. And, there’s no mention of the fact that Ferg owns the parcel between Central & 1st Ave N which encompasses the creek so it is not currently truly accessible to the public.

    My understanding is Green Bench was attracted to this property because of this unique water feature & therefore has a vested interest to preserve its beauty. Their proposal of a beer garden will finally allow the public to enjoy the area.

    My question is will the City be compensated if the alley is vacated?

  8. Avatar

    Barbara Eastwood Rivera

    June 5, 2023at7:36 am

    I recall how excited I was when I read an article of the beautiful walk/bike ways over the B’Creek stream that the City planners presented as the future plan ‘’When the Tropicana Stadium and surrounding unnecessary paved lots were torn down”….Remember “Give it back to the community it was taken from!”!! I was elated there was a park like wide thoroughfare for pedestrians with a bridge near Ferg’s in the plans. I thought then that IF & When we lost our Ray’s team that Thank Goodness~ there would be a renewal of the meandering creek and some lush green for all who do not want fight crowds, pay to park, just to enjoy the Pier green space. Where else is there a green space in that area of St Pete with a water feature? That SHOULD be expanded for EVERYONE to enjoy. O K, if we must ,a beer garden (we ever have enough?) perhaps a place for food trucks with variety of foods, some outside exercise equipment, an area to look for our native birds and butterflies Not seen at the pier park. Improve the QUALITY of life in that area… does anyone recall those plans? We must INSIST that we save/expand Booker Creek and not choke it off for more development Y’all! I have lived here and paid taxes since ‘68. Thinking back, in the 80’s I was a visiting home nurse going to that area everyday to administer insulin, perform blood draws/ lab work in homes all down the deuces area, 16th St., all over the south side for 12 years. I had cherry bombs thrown under my vehicle at stop lights and I watched the area get burned down in the past ‘demonstrations’ when we were not allowed to go to our patients home to care for their medical needs; it was ‘just too dangerous for a white nurse.
    Please! Let’s develop something that benefits Health for the young & old residents. Change~for Good Quality of Life. Sincere thanks!

  9. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    June 5, 2023at11:38 am

    Debbie Reeser, you don’t get limit public access to water ways because you seek to profit. And, the reason for the resurgence of the area has nothing to do with the investments they made. If anything they need to be paying the influencers of the day during that time and all the artists and creators that kept local alive. Buildings don’t make a great city as you will soon find out if public assets are given to private entities. With the redevelopment of Tropicana field in the works it would be premature to vacate that ROW. As far as Ferg’s parcel and location no one is limiting access it just so happens to be located in a hard to get to area. It is the city governments fault that the mixed-use development adjacent to the north was allowed. No vision on the council even now

  10. Avatar

    Debbie Reeser

    June 5, 2023at3:21 pm

    Steve Sullivan, I have lived in St Pete since 1976 and been active with St Pete Preservation (now Preserve the ‘Burg), the EDGE District Association, Grand Central District Association and the Downtown Neighborhood Association. I’m deeply entrenched in all things St Pete. I also happen to be a commercial realtor. But in this instance, I have “no skin in the game”. My intent in writing my response is to correct a misperception regarding that area. The requested alley vacation is between two privately owned commercial properties. The alley does not extend to the Booker Creek. AND, the only reason that area is a beautiful oasis is because Dan Harvey spent his money to make it that way.

  11. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    June 6, 2023at12:42 pm

    I don’t care if he spent money that does not give him the automatic right to acquire a public ROW. He should have done it for the community and not some future venture.So he did it with an agenda. I am born and raised in Pinellas County and previously lived in St. Pete where I currently have many relatives. Prior to moving there at one point that was my stomping grounds for antique shopping and eating local. I know the area very well and the people that grinded it out to make it the cultural gem it is today. So, stop it already! It’s the access to get to the creek that is in question not the creek. The creek will be expanded and developed into something beautiful when visionaries get hold of it. Either way it’s a throughfare and what dummy would want to close that off to public access for another brewery. You may live in St. Pete but you are not thinking or talking like a local

  12. Avatar

    Debbie Reeser

    June 6, 2023at1:55 pm

    Steve, you don’t seem to understand that the alley does not extend to the creek. I am absolutely thinking like a local who volunteers a lot of her time to make St Pete a better community. If you want to make a difference get involved with the EDGE District on one of the committees – . Don’t criticize me for not caring about St Pete or that district in particular. I didn’t see you this past Saturday morning for the EDGE District clean up.

  13. Avatar

    steve sullivan

    June 6, 2023at5:27 pm

    I never said it extended to the creek but if developed the creek could be observed from the alley and since its a public right of way it could be turned into a park like plaza. if the alley dead ends into Booker Creek its just another area for the people. If you vacate and they claim the alley its no longer public. And how would you know if a person was present or not when you dont know me. And even if I wasn’t how are you going to judge what I do with my time. That I did not do with you.

  14. Avatar

    Jeanette R Bulatowicz

    June 12, 2023at1:32 pm

    All these comments are very interesting.. I’ve learned a lot about the area. Having lived here many years and my husband being born at nearby Mound Park Hospital(can’t say how long ago that was lol) I took the grandkids for a ride around this little gem area. Part of their heritage really.
    They were in awe.

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