In 1936, the area between the present site of the Beach Theater and the end of the Corey Causeway was mangrove swamp. It occurred to The Upham Company, who were sales agents for the International Realty Associates and the First National Bank of Tampa, that an attractive approach to the beaches as well as a desirable business section could be developed by improving Corey Avenue. As sales agents, The Upham Company representatives attempted to get the owners of the property to make such an improvement by filling the swamp and paving the road, believing that this would not only be profitable in itself, but would also enhance the value of surrounding lots. Both owners turned down the proposition, but, convinced of the merit of this project, the Upham Company decided to do it for their own account. Subsequently, they bought the lots fronting Corey Avenue, filled the swamp, and paved the street.
The opening of Corey Avenue and its official dedication took place on Saturday afternoon, February 13, 1937 with a mass celebration and motorcade. Speeches were made by Mayor Smith of St. Petersburg, Mayor Deacon of Pass-a-Grille, heads of both the Gulf Beach and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce, Mrs. Jack Corey for whose husband the causeway is named and Mrs. William L. Edison, daughter-in-law of the famous inventor.
The next step was to get stores established. The first building was constructed by The Upham Company on the northeast corner of Corey Avenue and Blind Pass Road. This Building was finished in May 1937 and immediately occupied. Soon, Corey Avenue was a bustling street that housed clothing and sundries, shoes and accessories, a drug store, hardware store, a theatre, restaurants and bars, and even a Fruit Company.
Although the tenant businesses have changed many times over the years, Corey Avenue was, and still remains ‘the heart of downtown, St. Pete Beach’, and offers visitors a delightful mix of unique boutiques and galleries, clothing and accessories, gifts and home furnishings, restaurants and entertainment – everything one would hope to find!