Saturday, Nov 22, 2014
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Beautification helping Hibiscus Street in Tarpon blossom

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TARPON SPRINGS — It’s an eyesore no more.

Hibiscus Street, for years easy to overlook because of its drab, unattended-to appearance, has been revived.

Thanks to the efforts of local business owners and the city, a stretch of Hibiscus north of Tarpon Avenue is no longer an uninviting corridor right in the middle of downtown.

“Hibiscus has always been this street that everybody’s pretty much referred to as an alley,” said Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce President Sue Thomas. “But it’s not an alley anymore. It’s all fixed up, it has benches, it looks nice, there are new storefronts; the alley has gone away and a real street has come in.”

To celebrate the transformation, the Grand Hibiscus Street Inauguration Ceremony will be held 5–8 p.m. Friday. Ribbon cuttings will be held in front of chamber member businesses and the building at the corner of Hibiscus, and Tarpon is to be blessed by clergy from the nearby St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Much of the credit for spurring on the urban face lift, Thomas said, belongs to local Sherry Wendt, owner of Olympic Realty and Staging Beautiful Homes.

“She really has been the powerhouse behind this whole thing,” Thomas said of Wendt. “She moved into the realty business on Tarpon next to us and wanted to fix it up and put in benches and plant flowers right away.”

While praising Wendt’s efforts in the ongoing beautification process, Thomas also cited City Manager Mark LeCouris’ role. LeCouris previously had told Wendt the city would contribute to the effort if certain parameters were met, such as getting vacant storefronts rented out and having the owners of the corner lot on Hibiscus and Tarpon spruce up their property.

“He was safe in doing that because that’s never happened there and he probably figured it wasn’t going to happen,” Thomas said. “But because we have a city manager that was born and raised here and cares — and was in complete disbelief that it all got done — he said, ‘OK, that’s what I said so that’s what I’ll do.’ ”

Judy Staley, the city’s research and information officer, added that facade grants approved to business owners in the affected area contributed greatly to the buildings’ improvements.

“The facade grants were really an impetus for getting that whole thing going,” Staley said. “Then they were able to get all those nice tenets in there so it’s really worked out well.”

Improvements like those finished at Hibiscus can also tend to replicate themselves in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses type manner, Thomas said.

“An owner across the street, he’s now jumped into the fray and now he wants to be part of it and fix up that side of the street, too.”

Scavenger Hunt

The Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce will hold its 2013 Tarpon Springs Photo Scavenger Hunt from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. this Saturday.

Teams can be joined or formed for $20 per person and all ages are invited. Proceeds go to benefit Suncoast Hospice.

Teams have to go around town with a list of humorous items to photograph. A grand prize will be awarded to the team with the most points during a post-hunt event at Wentworth Golf Club.

Registration before Saturday is required. Further information can be found by calling (727) 937-6109.

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