Even through times of recession, when many storefronts became shuttered and vacant, Central Avenue has always been Downtown St. Pete’s major commercial corridor. However, in the wake of Downtown St. Pete’s economic renaissance, many new businesses have opened and flourished throughout downtown — most prominently along Central Avenue.

Lobby of the new Orangetheory Fitness & Cafe at 650 1st Ave S.

It’s simple supply and demand.  As more businesses continue to move into the neighborhood, that leaves less vacant space for future retail tenants.  As a result, retailers and restaurants are beginning to branch out from Central Ave and consider the streets adjacent to it.  One such street is 1st Avenue S.

Jeff Craft and Mike Lenhart have recognized the trend and are developing a 6,500 square foot retail building on what was once a vacant lot at 640 1st Avenue S. Currently under construction, the building will be ready in about four months. With an expected opening this summer, Orangetheory Fitness, a trendy high intensity group training gym, will occupy 3,000 square feet of the building.

Location of the new Orangetheory Fitness & Cafe at 650 1st Ave S.

The remaining 3,500 square feet will be built out for a restaurant, most likely to be filled by a new concept from a regional restaurant group. In addition, the restaurant will have 750 square feet of patio space.  While building speculative restaurant space can be risky, Craft says “We really believe in Downtown St. Pete.”

Rendering of the new Orangetheory Fitness & Cafe at 650 1st Ave S.

The development will also have a rare amenity that is very hard to come by in downtown.  It will include 35 parking spaces, which should attract those who don’t live within walking or biking distance.

Other businesses are also betting on 1st Ave S.  Last month, Stephen Schrutt opened up two new concepts on 1st Ave S — Proper Kitchen & Cocktails, a southern-influenced eatery, and Park&Rec, a social gaming bar.  Just one block away at 200 1st Ave S, Ford’s Garage is planning to debut one of their automobile-inspired restaurants.  Also, later this quarter, Downtown St. Pete’s second Publix Super Market will open at 725 1st Ave S.  All of these developments are contributing to the rise of 1st Ave S and transforming it into another walkable commercial corridor in Downtown St. Pete.


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