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Catalyze 2021: Jason Jensen of Wannemacher Jensen Architects

Margie Manning

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We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2021, and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live in what will surely be a changed – and charged – post-Covid world. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2021.

For Jason Jensen, principal at Wannemacher Jensen Architects in St. Petersburg, 2021 presents an opportunity for the community to continue to build its resiliency.

Jensen is encouraged by the steps he saw St. Petersburg government, civic and business leaders take this year in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This past year was a divisive and isolating year but it also illustrated that we are truly stronger together if we engage each other and promote each other, look for opportunities to lift up each other. I think St. Pete embodies that action. We didn’t just get caught up in the national narrative but we looked for opportunities to help each other locally and to move forward in the St. Pete way,” Jensen said.

The Marketplace on the St. Pete Pier is a visible reminder of that concept, said Jensen. Wannemacher Jensen, which designed the Pier Approach Park, believes that architecture should inspire the community and reflect its ambitions and goals. The Marketplace embodies many of those aspirations, he said.

“The Market created a public space that gave unique opportunities for small entrepreneurial businesses,” he said. “A space that was forgotten became a space for community, which I think is a roadmap to future transformations to the city.”

Another example is the collaborative work that took place as small businesses fought to keep going in the pandemic. The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the St. Petersburg Greenhouse and Grow Smarter developed a Business Resiliency Team, made up of navigators who established relationships with business owners and key community leaders.

Jensen hopes to carry that forward as he chairs the Chamber’s newly created Greenhouse and Navigation committee.

“How do we give not just spaces for people but opportunities to grow, thrive, to navigate, to support their businesses, to give them the right resources, connect the dots, if you will, to help them take the next level,” Jensen said.

One lesson learned in 2020 was that some companies lack the business acumen to grow to the next level.

“In many cases, that’s not their fault and it doesn’t have anything to do with their work ethic,” he said. “We need to connect the dots to allow their work ethic and their ideas to flourish and become something more that can support them, their families and their communities.”

Connections that stick will provide a framework for growth, Jensen said.

“Everyone talks about Covid, but it could be any crisis. There’s a specific response to this crisis, but we need a response that is resilient to all crises,” he said. “This is a step forward. We’re using a crisis to forge a new direction that will make us more resilient for all crises in the future.”

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