For restaurant owner and beer brewer Mike Harting, St. Petersburg's historic "Deuces" held no special allure.
"We went looking for warehouses and we wanted close to the Interstate, and something bigger than 10,000 square feet, and we saw that, it's 18,000 square feet, and loved it -- absolutely loved it," Harting told FOX 13 News.
Later this week, his Three Daughters Brewery will be open to the public at 222 22nd Street South. That's close to the northern edge of "The Deuces," the nickname for what was once the African-American community's main street through decades of segregation.
Something in the neighborhood of $100 million has been spent on a variety of public projects the past 15 years. The list includes the complete rebuilding of the Jordan Park housing complex, a new $44 million Job Corps campus, the $5 million Johnnie Ruth Clark Health Center and the recently re-opened Manhattan Casino.
It was renovated at a cost of $3 million, and is now operated by Sylvia's, a soul food restaurant rooted in Harlem.
Now smaller, private ventures are appearing. A consignment shop, ice cream store and restaurant are getting ready to open at 9th Avenue South.
At 18th Avenue South, a former Sweetbay is under renovation, scheduled to re-open as a Walmart Neighborhood Market next month.
Across from the Job Corps campus, Andre Johnson now shapes the hair of a new generation.
"I have a lot of elders that come here to this barber shop that used to come here when they were kids, and they'll tell me about a lot of the history," Johnson said.
He bought the shop four years ago and has seen other new neighbors arrive.
"I get the feeling that I am a part of a history, or an unspoken renaissance," Johnson said.
An unexpected boost has also come from artists flocking together in the more industrial northern end of The Deuces. Photography artist Gina Foti moved into a larger loft three days ago.
"There's so many artistic influences and architecture and everything here, I get inspired by being here, I get inspired by other artists," Foti said. "This building is filled with artists, the next building is filled with artists, and the other one, the white building, as well."
None of which mattered to Harting when he was looking for a place to operate a full-scale brewery. He has since taken stock of The Deuces.
"If luck is number 1 on the list, we got it without a doubt," Harting admitted. "The area is much more than it was a year ago."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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