As Davis slowly made his way down Martin Luther King Blvd., it was as if he was traveling back in time.
Pastor Chester Davis recently drove along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. pointing out what used to be.
Empty grass fields and barren concrete pads were once businesses, and not just open but “thriving, ” Davis said.
As Davis slowly made his way down Martin Luther King Blvd., it was as if he was traveling back in time, as he pointed out what was once a hotel, a restaurant, a boarding house, a dance hall, a drug store, and a dentist office.
As he neared Ave G, Davis put his truck in park and pointed out his window to an empty field.
“Years ago this was a big school,” Davis said. “It was one big building, but in it you had about seven or eight rooms. That was your elementary and high school and all.”
According to Davis, at one time the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe had 37 businesses, which Davis said was more than what was on Reid Ave. at the time.
Along with serving the local community, those businesses also served sailors from throughout the world as their ships sat in the Port of Port St. Joe.
“In my sight, I can almost see how great it used to be,” Davis said. “Walking down from Avenue A. all the way down there was always something to do, all the way to the end.”
Davis who is the president of the North Port St. Joe Project Area Committee (PAC), is now one step closer to seeing those sights again.
The PAC has been working since early 2016 to revitalize the North Port St. Joe area that has become what Davis called “blighted.”
The committee has organized, held public workshops and meetings, and crafted an updated North Port St. Joe master plan that would fully integrate with the city’s standing master plan.
After the April meeting of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency(PSJRA) where the idea of updating Martin Luther King Blvd.’s “mixed-use” zoning designation to better mesh with the PAC’s plan for redevelopment, the PAC requested $20,000 from the PSJRA board to complete a detailed rezoning plan.
At the July meeting of the PSJRA last week, the seven-member board voted unanimously to approve the funding of the rezoning plan.
While the PSJRA board members voiced support for the PAC’s efforts last week, questions were raised about how and when the PAC will begin full-fledged work in North Port St. Joe.
Davis assured the board that no wants to see action as much as the PAC, and the PAC hopes to have at least one brick-and-mortar project going by the end of the year.
Davis also added the PAC hoped to actually begin work at Avenue G end of Martin Luther King Blvd. on land which the Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church, which Davis is pastor of, owns outright.
According to Davis, the plan is to use the land to construct housing for the elderly and a daycare facility, with the PAC wanting to work from Avenue G to Avenue A along Martin Luther King Blvd. and then branch out the redevelopment effort from there.
“We have to get started right here amongst ourselves first,” Davis said. “We’re not trying to do this alone. We need the city’s approval, we need your blessing and we need you encouragement.”